Boehner’s Obamacare Woes

John BoehnerAs you may recall, yesterday, I wrote about John Boehner’s experience signing up for Obamacare, GOP Silence on Good Obamacare News. My focus was on the fact that when bad news comes out about Obamacare (Or just news that seems like it is bad news), the conservative press is all over it. But when that news is shown to be incorrect, nothing is said. In that case, as soon as Boehner indicated that he wasn’t able to sign up for Obamacare, the right wing chamber started to echo. But when less than an hour later we was able to do it, the right wingers just dropped the subject.

There was also the issue that it seemed like Boehner had received a decent deal on the exchange, so I talked about the fact that he didn’t mention it. But then, his office announced through Politico that he was actually paying twice as much as he was before. I smelled a rat. In an update, I noted:

First, that sounds like it comes direct from Boehner’s office and not an actual journalist. Second, given that the Boehners get their insurance through their employers, wasn’t the actual cost they were paying higher than their own contributions? That is: what about the employer’s contribution? Third, by opting out of employer insurance, are they throwing themselves into a high risk pool—namely the “old and smoking” pool?

Well, my answer came today from some fine reporting by Michael Hiltzik at the Los Angeles Times, The Dirty Secrets Behind Boehner’s “Spiking” Obamacare Premiums. I’m still not certain how Boehner’s current plan works, but the main reason he has to pay more is because he is moving from an employer plan that doesn’t take his age into account to a private plan that does.

Think about it: this is how insurance works. We constantly hear conservatives complain about how young healthy people shouldn’t have to subsidize healthcare for the old and unhealthy. But that’s how employer provided insurance works. As Hiltzik shows, if Boehner were 50 instead of 64, he would be paying less through Obamacare. What’s more, if Boehner worked anywhere but in Congress, nothing would change:

Boehner has only his congressional colleagues to blame for his having to use the insurance exchange at all—the Senate GOP mandated that members of Congress and their staffs, uniquely among federal employees, move their insurance to the exchanges. And now they’re complaining about the complexity and cost? That’s gall.

The takeaway from all of this is that Boehner may be doing worse by moving to private insurance through Obamacare. But he is not typical of people who work for Congress. And he is nothing at all like people who don’t work for Congress. This is all very typical: scratch an Obamacare horror story and you find nothing there but a fairly well designed system that is providing people with good health insurance at a reasonable cost.

Update (26 November 2013 2:54 pm)

Brian Beutler provides the full rundown of this at Slate, John Boehner: Obamacare’s New Best Friend. Basically, it is just what I said: Boehner was getting highly socialized healthcare through his employer plan and now he is getting less socialized healthcare in the individual market. But if Boehner were currently in the individual market, he would see that his premiums have gone way down.

The thing that Beutler makes particularly clear is who is paying for what. His old plan cost him $433 per month, but his employer threw in $426 per month. That means his old plan was $859. His new plan costs $875, but his employer is still going to pay the $426, so he will have to pay $449—$16 more than he currently does. It is true that he is getting less, as discussed above. But it most certainly is not the case that he is paying double.

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About Frank Moraes

Frank Moraes is a freelance writer and editor online and in print. He is educated as a scientist with a PhD in Atmospheric Physics. He has worked in climate science, remote sensing, throughout the computer industry, and as a college physics instructor. Find out more at About Frank Moraes.

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