Obamacare and the forgotten middle class

Recently, Maryland House Speaker Michael E. Busch accused Congress of trying to “sabotage” the Affordable Care Act, even as middle class Marylanders saw their “affordable” Obamacare health insurance policies skyrocket. Mr. Busch then suggested that after a “rocky start,” the Affordable Care Act in Maryland was a big success. (“Md. will protect health care even if U.S. won't,” Nov. 21.)

That would be nice if it was true for everyone. Unfortunately, Speaker Busch forgot about the middle class families who don’t receive Medicaid or subsidies and tax credits under the Affordable Care Act. They’ve seen their “affordable” health insurance increase by over 100 percent since Obamacare started. This year, a 40-year-old saleswoman with two children who makes $81,600 will pay $1,275 per month, with an annual deductible of $6,900, for the cheapest Obamacare health insurance plan available to her. Keep in mind that the median mortgage in Maryland is $2,000 per month; this woman’s health care is costing her almost as much. For this working single mom, the Affordable Care Act is not “affordable”; a requirement for her to pay $6,900 before her insurance pays anything does not encourage her to seek “care” for herself or her children; and pretending an Obamacare insurance policy this bad is a big success is just nonsense.

Over 300,000 people have been added to Maryland’s Medicaid rolls as a result of Obamacare; they pay nothing for their very good health insurance. The federal government and Maryland taxpayers pick up their tab. Only 134,000 Marylanders have actually purchased Obamacare policies, and most of those received heavy subsidies or tax credits. Where those subsidies end (an income of $81,600 for a family of three), the forgotten middle class begins.

I agree with him that everyone deserves the kind of affordable health care he received during his liver transplant. But does Obamacare deliver that to middle class families? Compare Busch’s (and my) state health insurance policy to the cheapest Obamacare policy a 60-year-old construction foreman, who makes $98,500 and has a family of four, can buy. He pays $3,074/month, with an annual deductible of $6,900. Mr. Busch pays $264/month or less, with no deductible when using in-network providers. Clearly, Obamacare does not give this construction foreman the same kind of “affordable” health care as Speaker Busch. A recent proposal that Maryland tax individuals for not purchasing such lousy insurance only adds insult to injury.

The Affordable Care Act is only affordable for those who don’t have to pay for their health insurance. Pretending Obamacare doesn’t have fiscal and structural issues that negatively impact Maryland’s middle class won’t fix this problem. Nor will pretending that it doesn’t have any benefits either, as Gov. Larry Hogan and I both recognize. Most of us would agree that those with pre-existing conditions should be able to get insurance, and that parents should be able to keep children on their policies longer. So let’s get it done. In the New Year, let’s resolve to make the Affordable Care Act truly affordable for the forgotten middle class.

Del. Herb McMillan, Annapolis

The writer, a Republican, represents Anne Arundel County in the General Assembly.

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