Stuck in the Obamacare "donut hole", a midstate couple hopes for change with Trump
Ben Allen, General Assignment Reporter | 12.19.16
(Harrisburg) -- Polls show health care is one of the most important issues for voters.
During the campaign, President-elect Donald Trump pledged to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, though he's since vowed to keep the more popular parts of the law.
Trump's victory puts two of his supporters in rural Schuylkill County in a bit of a short-term bind as they decide whether to get health insurance for next year.
But Abra and Matt Schultz say they don't mind.
The Schultz's recently built a house in Pottsville.
It's a typical middle class neighborhood, and Matt works as a carpenter foreman for a construction company.
They are right in Trump's wheelhouse - Republicans in a Republican county.
"Don't touch my paperwork, don't even try to touch it," says Abra, to her husband Matt.
Photo by Ben Allen/WITF
Matt and Abra Schultz talk about their options under the Affordable Care Act in the kitchen of their Pottsville home.
There's a thick notebook in front of Abra in her kitchen.
A file folder with policy document and notes, filled as high as a stack of pancakes.
"I get so stressed out about. I'll not pick one until the very last minute, like that deadline day," she says.
Matt makes good money, but the health insurance offered at work isn't that great.
Since he usually gets laid off in the winter when construction slows down, he and his wife buy coverage on the Affordable Care Act exchange.
They're in a donut hole.
They make too much money for tax credits, but not enough that they don't have to think about budgets.
Two years ago, they were paying $530 a month for a plan they were liked.
The options this year?
"So basically we have one for $881, one for $938, one for $984, like the deductibles are look, these are insane," Abra says, as she looks at the Affordable Care Act exchange website.
That's for two relatively healthy adults.
Photo by Ben Allen/WITF
A computer, showing the Affordable Care Act exchange website, sits in Abra and Matt Schultz's kitchen.
She goes on: "The one that we would be stuck with would be the silver, this is $881.50 and our deductible would be $7,000."
Add the cost of insurance for their two kids too, and they're expecting to pay about $14,000 in health care premiums next year.
That adds up to a vote for Trump.
His plan is to work with the insurance companies to hopefully get it down where it should be.
Abra says she never really paid attention to politics until Barack Obama won in 2008.
Then Obamacare took effect.
"Yes, that was kinda number one in my book," says Abra.
Photo by Ben Allen/WITF
Abra Schultz plays guitar, much to her daughter's delight, in the kitchen of their Pottsville home. Her daughter is covered by CHIP - the children's health insurance program.
Abra liked what Trump said about Obamacare on campaign stops -- like one in King of Prussia
"Obamacare has to be replaced, and we will do it and we will do it very, very quickly. It is a catastrophe," he said in a speech there.
She says he was more concerned than Democrat Hillary Clinton about how it was affecting people like her.
"I dunno, I don't want to say it's a feeling, or something like that but I don't know," she explains.
"That was my feeling and that's what I went with."
As she sees it, so what if she's in limbo while rumors about the future of the ACA swirl?
Larry Levitt with the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation hears her frustration with the law.
"These are people who are playing by the rules, and doing the right thing, and they feel like they're getting the shaft," he says.
Levitt has been studying health care policy for years.
Photo by AP Photo/ Evan Vucci
President-elect Donald Trump spoke about healthcare, Tuesday, Nov. 1, 2016, in King of Prussia, Pa.
No one likes higher and higher premiums.
But he says there's a trade-off.
"Before the ACA, to get insurance on your own, you had to fill out a medical questionnaire, and an insurer would only take you if you were reasonably healthy. That kept premiums down, but it's because sick people were excluded from the market, all together," he says.
Levitt says to get to a point where premiums only increase slightly every year while everyone can still get coverage, no matter their preexisting condition, government might have to create and fund high-risk pools, to the tune of billions of dollars a year.
As Levitt says, "If this were easy, it already would have happened."
Abra Schultz says she's understands those concerns, but wants the best for her family -- especially lower premiums.
"[Trump] just wants to fix what needs to be fixed, which I think is wonderful news," she says.
For those who buy their insurance on the exchange and want it to start January 1, the deadline has come and gone.
Schultz says she's going to buy, but if Trump tells the IRS to drop the penalty for people who don't get insurance, she might drop the insurance.
Published in Affordable Care Act
Tagged under Affordable Care Act