Try the Subsidy Calculator

by Veronique de Rugy

The Wall Street Journal has a new tool called Explorer to help you figure out premium subsidies and cost-sharing reductions under Obamacare. The Explorer shows what we knew already — unlike what the president claimed, the law will not reduce everyone’s health-insurance costs. Some will win and some will lose. Here is an example:

A 55-year-old in Worth County, Ga., the most expensive county for insurance, would have to pay $804 a month for the cheapest mid-level, or silver, plan available there before subsidies. For higher-earning customers not eligible for subsidies, that price may be steeper than their coverage before the health law.

But, a person of that age earning $45,960 would get a $478-per-month subsidy, bringing the price down to $326 a month. At $20,000 a year, that person could get a $755-per-month subsidy, bringing the direct price to about $60 a month.

The  tool doesn’t determine whether people getting subsidies would end up paying more or less than they would have before the law was implemented, but there’s no doubt some will spend more and some will spend less.

A few charts to help see what it looks like over a range of income:

Now the question is how many people will have plans by the end of March, when “open enrollment” for the law closes. The administration predicted 7 million enrollees; the CBO lowered that number to 6 million; others are predicting many fewer.

How many of the enrollees didn’t have insurance before the law was implemented? (Since that was, after all, the primary purpose of the law.) A week ago, Washington Examiner’s Philip Klein reported the following data:

On Thursday, the Washington Post reported: “Only one in 10 uninsured people who qualify for private plans through the new marketplaces enrolled as of last month, one of the surveys shows. The other found that about half of uninsured adults have looked for information on the online exchanges or planned to look.”

This news comes in the wake of a Kaiser Family Foundation survey that found that a record 56 percent of uninsured now have an unfavorable view of the law, compared with just 22 percent who have a favorable view.

And here are some new data from a few days ago:

A new Gallup survey finds that the rate of uninsured adults in the United States is falling, but it’s not clear what that really tells us about the implementation of President Obama’s health care law.

At first glance, the news that the U.S. uninsured rate has declined to 15.9 percent would suggest that the law is making progress on one of its central goals. And it’s certainly better news than other recent surveys suggesting that uninsured Americans were failing to embrace the law.

But the broader context makes it harder to draw any conclusions.

So the story of the Gallup numbers over the past year is just as much a story of the uninsurance rate spiking in the summer/early fall of 2013 as it is a story of it declining at the start of 2014.

It’s possible that people who were losing insurance as a result of changes in the law last year have been shifting to new plans on the Obamacare exchanges — which would still be consistent with the theory that Obamacare hasn’t made major gains among the long-term uninsured.

Additionally, taking the longer view, the 15.9 percent rate isn’t historically that low.

In other words, we don’t know yet. There is, however, one thing you can be sure of: It won’t be cheap.

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