Obamacare’s ‘affordability gap’ hits middle income families in 47 of nation’s 50 largest cities

By Mark Tapscott

Obamacare’s lowest-priced coverage plans will be unaffordable under the official regulations for middle-income families in 47 of 50 major U.S. cities in 2018, according to a study made public Thursday by a firm that claims to have sold the first health insurance plan on the internet.

The health insurance brokering firm eHealth.com used data from healthcare.gov, the U.S. Census Bureau data and the insurance industry in a survey of the 50 largest cities. The company first sold a health insurance plan on its web site in 1997.

The analysis found:

In 47 of 50 cities surveyed, the lowest-priced plan would be officially unaffordable under Obamacare affordability standards for families earning 401% of the federal poverty level (about $82,000 per year in the contiguous US, making them ineligible for Obamacare subsidies).

Among these, the average three-person household would need to earn an additional $28,939 per year before the lowest-cost plan becomes affordable, according to Obamacare rules.

Using a projected 10 percent premium increase for 2018, eHealthInsurance.com said middle income families in Charlotte, N.C. face the largest affordability gap, having to earn an additional $102,245 before the premiums for the lowest-cost plan would become financially manageable.

Obamacare regulations say a health insurance plan is unaffordable whenever its premiums cost exceed 8.16 percent of a household’s modified adjusted gross income. Tax-funded subsidies are available to families whose household income equals 400 percent or less of the federal poverty level.

Phoenix, Az., had the second biggest affordability gap, requiring an additional $91,760. Manhattan, N.Y. was third with a gap of $87,329, followed by the Raleigh-Durham region of N.C. at $67,529, and Lincoln, Neb. at $67,510.

Large cities did relatively better in the study’s results. Philadelphia’s gap was $36,454, while Baltimore came in with a gap of $15,863 and Chicago with $22,981.

Detroit, Albuquerque and Pittsburg were the only cities among the 50 surveyed in which no affordability gap appeared assuming the 10 percent premium increase for 2018.

“Coverage under the Affordable Care Act is becoming seriously unaffordable for many families, even by Obamacare’s own rules,” said eHealth CEO Scott Flanders. “I find it hard to believe that the framers of the law ever intended the cost of family health insurance to rival that of a second mortgage.”

Flanders added that “without the introduction of lower-cost options into the market or expanded government subsidies, many middle-income Americans are in danger of being priced out of the health insurance market entirely.”

An estimated 1,200 of the nation’s 3,142 counties are projected by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid, which manages Obamacare, to have only onehealth insurance offerer next year. Only one county will have no offerers next year, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.

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