If you’re a 25 year old male non-smoker, buying insurance for yourself, the cheapest plan on Obamacare’s exchanges is the catastrophic plan, which costs an average of $184 a month. (By “average,” I mean the median monthly premium across California’s 19 insurance rating regions.)The next cheapest plan, the “bronze” comprehensive plan, costs $205 a month. But in 2013, on eHealthInsurance.com (NASDAQ:EHTH), the median cost of the five cheapest plans was only $92.In other words, for the typical 25-year-old male non-smoking Californian, Obamacare will drive premiums up by between 100 and 123 percent.
The positive reactions to the California news, then, have been based on unhelpful or misleading comparisons. The question people care about is a simple one: How much is this going to cost me? Can I get the same coverage I have now for less money under the new plan? Astonishingly, years after the law passed, and after hordes of federal and state bureaucrats have toiled for months on figuring out how things work, not even the ACA’s backers are able to give confident answers to core questions like these.Meanwhile, Joe Citizen is still waiting in California to find exactly how much he will have to pay for the same level of coverage once the exchanges go into effect. And it increasingly looks like, even in California, many citizens, and especially young men, are going to be paying more in premiums for services they didn’t think they needed in the first place. Ripping off young people to subsidize higher income middle aged people isn’t a side effect of Obamacare; it is the central design feature that makes the system work, and once the spin comes off the California numbers, the ugly reality of this misbegotten “reform” cannot be disguised.That said, the world won’t end with Obamacare. It’s not the worst policy ever created. The pre-2010 system was seriously flawed and driving the country towards bankruptcy, and Republicans who hate Obamacare should ask themselves what the GOP majority in the Senate and the House did about health care between 2001 and 2007. Both parties share the blame for this mess; Republican immobility enabled bad Democratic policy.Some Democrats know that Obamacare is a mess and hope that it drives the country toward single payer, UK-style health insurance. We’re hoping that the pain and mess of Obamacare will reduce public confidence in the ability of wonks to micromanage something as complex as the American health care system, and will encourage reforms that can harness the power of technological progress, enlightened consumer self interest, and economic competition to make American health care better, cheaper and more user-friendly from year to year to year.