Federally subsidized health insurance exchanges established by the Affordable Care Act (ACA) were intended to make affordable insurance options available to all Americans. Though some of their intended goals were accomplished, others were not. The exchanges were certainly not the panacea so many claimed they were. Subsidized healthcare never is.
With a new administration in the White House, subsidized healthcare is a topic of discussion again. And in fact, President Biden has already signed an executive order creating a special open enrollment period to run from February 15 to May 15. The order was something BenefitMall speculated would happen in a post they published in mid-January 2021.
Now that it is done, proponents of the federal exchanges are applauding the administration for keeping one of its campaign promises. Moreover, a common theme being heard among the pundits is that a bronze plan purchased through a federal exchange is better than no plan at all.
Looking Past the Shortcomings
Humanity has a bad habit of trying to view the world through rose-colored glasses. When something like federal insurance exchanges come up, we tend to look past the shortcomings and focus exclusively on the good points. Doing so is normal and natural. But is it wise?
Assuming a bronze plan is better than no plan at all is to assume that health insurance benefits all people equally. It does not. It never has and never will. There is no blanket health insurance product that meets every need and satisfies every budget. No matter what plan you choose to talk about, be it a federal exchange plan or one offered by a private-sector carrier, there are always winners and losers.
The big shortcoming of the bronze plan is its high out-of-pocket costs. Yes, monthly premiums are pretty cheap. For low-income Americans who truly cannot afford health insurance, there are no monthly premiums at all. But you get what you pay for.
Bronze plans are notoriously scant in what they cover. You only get what are considered essential health benefits (EHBs) as defined by the ACA. And you still pay out-of-pocket every time you access health services.
You Will Pay Either Way
The thinking is that a bronze plan is better than no plan at all because it is something, at least. Yet anyone with a chronic illness may discover a bronze plan is way too expensive in the long run. That cheap plan could end up being a curse rather than a blessing.
The thing about subsidized health insurance is that it is not free. You will pay either way. Medicare and Medicaid aren’t even free. Consumers pay for them through payroll taxes. There is no such thing as free healthcare no matter how the proponents thereof try to spin it. Someone has to pay for it. That someone is always the person who uses it, whether they pay through premiums, deductibles and co-pays, or tax dollars.
Government Makes Things More Expensive
The biggest curse of the bronze plan, and all government-subsidized health insurance for that matter, is the simple fact that government makes things more expensive. Whenever government gets involved, costs go up and quality goes down. It is the law of the jungle.
Many Americans will undoubtedly be happy to hear of the special enrollment period for federally subsidized healthcare exchanges. They will be thrilled to know they can sign up for a bronze plan without having to wait until next fall. But for those who refuse to look past the shortcomings of federally subsidized health insurance, the rose-colored glasses are looking a little dirty.