It's great to see that Silicon Valley ingenuity can simplify health care reform and unclog federal government website arteries. In a few days, three 20-something programmers created www.thehealthsherpa.com, which can tell you quickly what your Obamacare premiums are likely to be.
The results show that Obamacare reforms would give my family a modest but not revolutionary improvement in the health care marketplace.
My family of three relatively healthy people was paying $1,500 a month for comprehensive (Gold Plan) health insurance on the private market in 2009 (before we moved abroad, where we get free health insurance). According to The Health Sherpa, our premiums in Chatham County, NC would plunge to $355 per month for a Gold plan covering 80 percent of health care costs if we have the very modest income that we did at the height of the Great Recession.
However, if our NC family income rose above $80,000, premiums would increase to $845 per month for the Gold plan for a family of three, or possibly more than 10 percent of our total income. If we chose only a catastrophic plan, with a deductible of $5,000 to as much as $10,000 annually, we could get coverage for a family of three for $340 per month, or about $4,080 per year. That's probably what most healthy families will choose, meaning they could still be stuck with more than $10,000 in medical bills over one year if a family member has a serious illness.
None of these plans are as good as the coverage we've received as part of employee packages in Turkey and the United Arab Emirates. Neither plan had significant co-pays or deductibles. In Turkey, even without health insurance, medical and dental costs were shockingly cheap for an American. Before our health insurance took effect in Turkey, I remember paying $10 for an emergency room visit to get antibiotics for a sinus head cold, and $200 for my son's root canal, and in both cases we didn't have to wait any time.
If the US would adopt a single-payer health care system like so much of the civilized industrial world, costs would decline even more dramatically than they do under the marketplace reforms of Obamacare. Even political conservatives in the U.K., France, Switzerland, Israel and Canada defend their national health care systems. But ideological zealots and entrenched financial interests in the U.S. make adoption of such a system unlikely anytime soon.
- Can Three Geeks Save Obamacare? A discussion of the pros and cons at Andrewsullivan.com, including an explanation for why the Obamacare website failed due to arcane rules for government contractors that have developed since at least the 1960s.
One government contractor writes: "What drives me the most crazy is the argument that private companies replacing government is somehow supposed to be more conservative??? It is nothing but corporate welfare and inefficient use of taxpayer dollars. If you want to shift responsibility for weapons production or waste management or environmental cleanup, then shift the responsibility to private industry and get government out of it. But if anyone thinks hiring companies to do the work the feds used to do is efficient, they haven’t stepped outside their echo chamber long enough to look at reality. These contracting company officials are so savvy at playing the politicians, the regulatory system, the contracting system, and the legal system, that they’ve taken us taxpayers for a ride. Sickeningly, many of my colleagues are Tea Party sympathizers who see no conflict in their positions. I wonder how they would fare if they were thrown to the street and had to survive without a federal tit."