With the dawn of the Affordable Care Act (ACA, more often called ObamaCare) individuals are now taxed for NOT buying something.
I encountered this for the first time the 2016 calendar year during my 100 days of unemployment. For for the first six months of 2016 I had what the Affordable Care Act calls “minimum essential coverage” (MEC) through my employer.
Starting in July I no longer had employer provided health insurance.
I hardly considered continuing my employer coverage via COBRA because it’s so expensive.
Even though I’m relatively young and healthy, accidents do happen. The number one cause of bankruptcy in the US is medical bills and I don’t want to be part of that statistic.
I could have signed up for a 2016 ACA plan within 60 days of losing my employer provided coverage but I didn’t think that was a good option.
The Affordable Care Act Made Healthcare Less Affordable For Me
The least expensive plan for me on healthcare.gov was $203.55 per month and had a $6,650 deductible, $40-$80 co-pays and/or 40/60 co-insurance and $6,850 maximum out of pocket.
This ACA health plan would have cost $2,442.60 per year or $1,221.30 for six months.
But even when you pay the premiums one still has to meet the $6,650 deductible.
For those not familiar with insurance jargon, a deductible is an amount that must be paid out of pocket by the insured (in this case me) before the insurance plan will cover anything.
So, in the course of a year you’d have to spend over $9,000 before this plan would kick in and start covering medical bills.
No thank you I’ll find a better plan.
What I Decided to Do for the Second Half of 2016
I purchased a non-MEC health insurance plan for $52 per month. It had a $5,000 deductible 30/70 co-insurance and a maximum out of pocket of $16,666.
I also got an accidental medical expense plan for $57.36 per month with a $250 deductible. I would be paid out up to $10,000 in the event of a disability or cancer/stroke.
So for a little over half the cost I was able to buy what I think is better coverage from both a cost and benefit perspective. My total cost was $656.16 for six months of coverage.
Minimum Essential Coverage
The only problem with the plan I purchased is that it does not fit into the government’s definition of “minimum essential coverage” (MEC).
Not having MEC results in one having to pay the Orwellian “Shared Responsibility Payment” which is $695 in 2016 or 2.5% of Adjusted Gross Income, whichever is higher, prorated for any months in which there was no coverage.
Since I had MEC for 6 months through work, but non-MEC for the 6 month I was unemployed, I would be “responsible” for paying half of the “Shared Responsibility Payment”. This “tax penalty” in 2016 is $695 or $347.5 or 2.5% of my AGI, whichever is higher.
So my total cost for health insurance in the last six months of the year was $1,003.66. Which is still $200 less expensive than if I had gone with the least expensive healthcare.gov plan.
Would I Have Done Anything Differently?
In hindsight I think I would have done the following.
After losing my employer coverage I would have gone without insurance for about 50 days or so (if I had gotten catastrophically ill in that time I would have bought an ACA plan since I would still be within that 60 day window). Then after 50 days of going without insurance I’d sign up for the least expensive ACA plan.
The ACA plan would have cost me $203.55 per month for four months or about $815.
You can go up to 3 months without MEC provided you have MEC for the rest of the time. So I wouldn’t have had to pay the newspeak “Shared Responsibility Payment.”
My mistake was not factoring in the “tax penalty”. The health insurance I did buy was less expensive than buying the cheapest ACA plan for four months, but NOT once I factor in having to pay the penalty.
In 2016 I was right in the heart of the people who DON’T benefit from the ACA.
Young healthy single people who don’t need most of the extras health insurance HAS TO HAVE to be considered MEC and thus avoid the “tax penalty”.
At my stage in life I don’t need or want maternity and newborn care or pediatric services. I don’t need or want coverage for rehabilitative services and devices or nursing home care. All things that increase the cost of an insurance plan that MUST be included in an ACA approved plan.
I also was making enough money that I didn’t qualify for any tax subsidy.
Other people my age might opt to go without any health insurance and just pay the fine/tax. That would have been the least expensive option for me in 2016 but not one I was willing to take.
I didn’t want to go without insurance.
I know some people benefit from the Affordable Care Act. However, I was not one of them. The ACA made healthcare more expensive for me and limited my choices.