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Guest Column

Market-based insurance is way to go


Obamacare was supposed to "bend the cost curve" when it comes to our nation's spending on health care but the concerns from my constituents I've received in the last few months pertain to increases in health care insurance premiums and reduced benefits through much higher deductibles.

One constituent from Aurora wrote:

"I was notified by Kaiser Permanente that the current plan in which I am enrolled in will be canceled beginning Jan. 1, 2014, and I would need to enroll in another program. I have spent most of my morning reviewing the different plans, and the least expensive plan in which I can enroll is double the cost of my existing plan. I have selected the least expensive bronze plan which will cost me $543 per month. My previous plan cost me $266 per month."

Another from Brighton:
"... our premiums increased by 50 percent, deductible increased by $500. Whereas before, we had reasonable co-payments for visits, now we have to reach our deductible before we can use an increased co-pay for a visit. No labs or diagnostics are included, so we are paying out of pocket for all of that. ... we are paying more for less coverage."

Another from Highlands Ranch:
"With the changes that have occurred since this law has passed, I have seen my premiums go higher and higher. This year alone my premiums have increased by 81 percent. Now, how many of us are seeing an 81 percent increase in our incomes? As you know, managing an increase in expenses to that degree impacts everything else you do as an individual and business owner."

The Obama administration gave a waiver to members of Congress from having to purchase their health care plan through an insurance exchange without a taxpayer subsidy. Under the waiver, we are still required to get our health care insurance through a D.C. exchange but we are now permitted to retain the taxpayer subsidy to offset the cost.

I decided to reject the subsidy because I believe the plain text of Obamacare doesn't give the authority for the Obama administration to exempt members of Congress from the law. In following the law, I purchased a new health insurance plan through our state's insurance exchange as an individual without the taxpayer subsidy.

My new plan is a PPO (preferred provider network) - just like my old plan - and it allows me to keep my same primary care physician. Under my current Federal Employees Health Benefit Plan (FEHBP), the premium cost is $599.63 per month ($186.14 from me with a taxpayer subsidy of $413.49) and under the new Rocky Mountain View PPO Bronze plan it's $607.06 per month. However, like so many of the complaints I've received, it's the difference in the co-pays and deductibles that's so surprising. In my current plan I have a co-payment of $20 and a deductible of $350; under the new Obamacare plan I will have a copayment of $60, a deductible of $4,500, and I will pay an additional 40 percent up to $6,350.

No doubt there will be winners and losers under Obamacare. The winners will be those enrolled in Medicaid or those who receive significant income-based subsidies to offset the full cost of their health insurance. However, I'm concerned about the middle-class families already struggling under a weak economy who will bear the full brunt of higher health care costs.

In 2010, when Obamacare was passed, it was common knowledge that our health care system was in desperate need of reform. The cost of health care was simply too high and the ability to buy affordable health insurance was increasingly out of reach for too many families. Under then Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, alternative health care reform proposals, which there were many, were procedurally kept from coming to the floor for a vote.

Unfortunately, I have no confidence that Obamacare will ultimately improve our health care system and I will continue to support patient-centered, market-based approaches that will benefit all Americans.

Republican Mike Coffman is the U.S. Representative for Colorado's 6th District. He is a Marine Corps combat veteran and has a combined 21 years of military experience between the Army, the Army Reserve, the Marine Corps and the Marine Corps Reserve.


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