Obama Supporters Upset over Losing Health Insurance

The chickens are coming home to roost for supporters of Barack Obama in classic fashion: one San Francisco couple that donated to Organizing for America and worked the phone banks to ensure Barack Obama’s reelection has found that they are far worse off because of ObamaCare than they were before

Architect Lee Hammack, 60, and his wife, JoEllen Brothers, 59, are self-called “cradle Democrats.” They have been covered by Kaiser Permanente for health insurance since 1995. Brothers even worked for Kaiser as a dietitian and diabetes educator until 2009. Hammack said they were excellent candidates for the insurance company, stating, “We’ve both been in very good health all of our lives – exercise, don’t smoke, drink lightly, healthy weight, no health issues, and so on.”

The couple was paying $550 a month for their health coverage, but recently they were informed by Kaiser that their plan would be canceled by the end of 2013 because the plan couldn’t meet the standards of ObamaCare.

Hammack said, “From all of the sob stories I’ve heard and read, ours is the most extreme.” Health care reporter Charles Ornstein of ProPublica took a look at the couple’s coverage and found their plan was a good one; any new plan would be more expensive with less benefits, and the couple didn’t qualify for federal subsidies because their income was more than quadruple the federal poverty level.

Hammack related the couple’s reaction when they were informed their coverage would be stripped from them: “I work downstairs and my wife had a clear look of shock on her face. Our first reaction was clearly there’s got to be some mistake. This was before the exchanges opened up. We quickly calmed down. We were confident that this would all be straightened out. But it wasn’t.”

According to ProPublica, the couple’s current plan has a “$4,000 deductible per person, a $40 copay for doctor visits, a $150 emergency room visit fee and 30 percent coinsurance for hospital stays after the deductible. The out-of-pocket maximum was $5,600.”

The letter informing the couple of the cancellation assured them that they were okay. It read, “Everything is taken care of. There’s nothing you need to do.” Then the letter stated that under the new Kaiser plan they were eligible for, the couple would pay nearly $1,300 a month (more than $15,000 a year) for their insurance, and their deductible would now be $4,500, the out-of-pocket maximum would be raised to $6,350, they would pay more for hospital costs (40 percent of the cost), and there was a chance that costs for doctor visits and drugs would be higher.

The cheapest option under Covered California was $975 per month, with much higher deductibles and copays.

Obama said last week in Boston:

There are a number of Americans — fewer than 5 percent of Americans — who've got cut-rate plans that don’t offer real financial protection in the event of a serious illness or an accident. Remember, before the Affordable Care Act, these bad-apple insurers had free rein every single year to limit the care that you received, or use minor preexisting conditions to jack up your premiums or bill you into bankruptcy. So a lot of people thought they were buying coverage, and it turned out not to be so good. 

But as Ornstein points out, “What is going on here? Kaiser isn’t a ‘bad apple’ insurer and this plan wasn’t ‘cut rate.’”

Hammack and Brothers wrote to House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA):

We believe that the Act is good for health care, the economy, & the future of our nation. However, ACA options for middle income individuals ages 59 & 60 are unaffordable. We’re learning that many others are similarly affected. In that spirit we ask that you fix this, for all of our sakes.

Hammack and Brothers could always lower their income to qualify for subsidies, which would mean reducing their income to $62,000, and Hammack is actually thinking about it. But he’s still upset. He said, “We’re not changing our views because of this situation, but it hurt to hear Obama saying, just the other day, that if our plan has been dropped it’s because it wasn’t any good, and our costs would go up only slightly. We’re gratified that the press is on the case, but frustrated that the stewards of the ACA don’t seem to have heard.”


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