When President Obama sold America on ObamaCare he said it would help those who didn’t otherwise have access to health care, those who were falling through the cracks of the system, those who needed government help most.
As we’ve addressed before, several studies have shown that the majority of those Americans now on ObamaCare previously had insurance, not the group we up-ended the entire health care system to help – the uninsured poor. Well it gets even worse for those working poor. Because of the individual mandate they’re required by law to take on an extra cost in their already slim budget.
The Los Angeles Times documented the story of one Californian who is now facing some harsh new financial realities. For the last 20 years she has gotten by without insurance, presumably paying cash for services needed prior to now.
For nearly two decades, Barbara Garnaus maintained a modest, delicate life balance: keeping her part-time Orange County school district job and juggling her bills and credit card debt.
Having good health helped. Garnaus got by without medical insurance, relying on yearly exams at a free clinic. But that changed last year: Garnaus now needs treatment for cancer, and she bought insurance under Obamacare.
With an ObamaCare plan, Garnaus will no doubt be able to access cancer care she could not afford without insurance beforehand, and that’s a good thing. However, she is concerned how she will handle that extra financial burden. Garnaus tried to limit the burden, but even a small monthly premium is devastating to her budget.
Price was Garnaus’ overriding consideration in choosing a policy.
“I got the cheapest one, the very cheapest one,” she said. “And for me it’s still not cheap.”
“I’m continuously getting into debt,” she said. Under her plan, she says, she can have up to $2,250 in annual out-of-pocket payments.
Like many of the working poor, Garnaus has a part-time job. She only earns $22,480 per year. Before federal and California state taxes. That equals out to $1,750 per month in take home pay. After subtracting the $1,180 for her rent, $100 on utilities and roughly $150 for gas necessary for her commute, she is left with a very slim balance, only $320 per month. Garnaus has to use that money for food, which has gotten more expensive, not less and any medical bills in that out of pocket payment.
Luckily her plan costs her less than $14 per month, but with the $20 co-pay every time she visits her oncologist and more than $100 in additional costs for lab work or CT scans, Garnaus’ slim budget quickly evaporates.
The sad reality is that Garnaus is not an isolated case. Many face her same struggles.
At the margins of poverty, even committing to premiums, co-payments and other new medical expenses of hundreds or a few thousand dollars a year can be difficult to manage, according to researchers and groups working with the low-income patients now required by federal law to buy insurance.
“When you talk about paying for something on a monthly basis like that, it’s something very real that people have to consider,” said Kandis Driscoll, a manager with the Santa Monica-based Insure the Uninsured Project. “It could be a survival decision.”
When Washington pushed for the individual mandate, the well-to-do, detached from reality politicians and lobbyists gave no consideration to those struggling to pay their bills. Beltway disease is hurting those of us in the rest of the country. Whether you’re part of the working poor or someone who lost their insurance because of this health law’s new mandates, ObamaCare has become a burden for the very American people it was meant to help.