Individual Insurance Plan Premiums Double For Some Of Alabama’s Insured

MORGAN COUNTY, Ala. (WHNT) – Over the past week, thousands of people have enrolled in the federal and state health care exchanges set up under the Affordable Care Act – also known as Obamacare. There have been success stories, as well as reports of others not able to get through the system due to technical glitches.

However, while millions of the nations’ uninsured hope to soon have affordable health care coverage, others here in Alabama are now getting letters indicating their premiums will soon double.

Stay-at-home mother of four, Courtney Long, was shocked when she received a notice from Blue Cross Blue Shield of Alabama stating that come January her family’s individual health insurance policy premium would increase from $352 per month to $796.

“It’s devastating. I started crying,” said Long. “I mean, we have worked so hard to get out of credit card debt, get ahead on the car loan, transfer our mortgage to a 15 from a 30 year mortgage… and for what?”

Long’s story is not unique. WHNT News 19 has received calls, emails, and Facebook messages from people who have received this same letter – alerting them their premiums were set to double (anywhere from $290/mo-$599/mo to $603/mo-$1060/mo).

Robby Zirkelbach, spokesman for policy advocate organization *America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP), which represents health insurance providers, says prices are going up as insurance companies work to comply with ACA regulations.

“The law requires all policies cover a minimum set of essential health benefits, many of which are not included in in policies today,” explained Zirkelbach. “So people will be getting policies that are more comprehensive, but will be more expensive as a result.”

For Long, that means her family will now have coverage for mental health and substance abuse counseling, but routine doctor’s visits for her children will be limited.

“Three visits per child are included before the deductible is met. Anything after three visits, you have to meet your deductible,” said Long. “I have a 3-month-old. We’ll meet that in half a year.”

The new premiums also include the cost for a new health care tax, implemented by the law.

“That’s going to operate like any other sales tax and add to the cost of health care coverage,” said Zirkelbach.

The tax is to the tune of $100 billion over the next 10 years. That cost is being paid by insurance companies and the insured.

“That’s something our industry thinks should be repealed because it is undermining the goals of health care reform,” said Zirkelbach. “An average family is going to pay an extra $360 in premiums just from that tax alone.”

Letter sent to Courtney Long, informing her that her insurance premiums would be increasing.

Letter sent to Courtney Long, informing her that her insurance premiums would be increasing.

WHNT News 19 reached out to Blue Cross Blue Shield of Alabama. In an email correspondence, spokeswoman, Koko Mackin, explained the premium hike this way:

“Due to the requirements of the Affordable Care Act, we are offering new health plans – and along with these new plans are new premiums. The Affordable Care Act expands health insurance coverage to more Alabamians and broadens benefits.  With coverage that includes more benefits, prices may increase.  The Affordable Care Act’s impact on premiums varies based on several factors:  the health plan you choose – bronze, silver, gold or platinum; where you live; the number of members in your family,  their ages, and whether you use tobacco.”

However, some families may be eligible for for tax credits to help afford the increased premiums. Mackin explains:

Some individuals and families may qualify for advanced premium tax credits that may lower the amount of premiums they pay for coverage.  To be eligible for these premium tax credits, an individual’s annual income must be less than $45,960, and a family of four’s annual income must be less than $94,200.

Long says she and her husband have shopped for a new plan.  However, she says comparable plans are priced similarly to the new increased rate.

She says she does not want to find a plan through the federal health care exchange. Others say they will have no choice but to scrap their current plans and either head to the exchange or pay the penalty.

32 comments

  • Emily Dunlap

    My individual coverage for just myself (a 23 year old) went from 144$/month for health an dental, to 220$/month for health only. There’s no way I can afford this. My husband and I live paycheck to paycheck. If we were to get family coverage through my husbands employer it would be 200$/ week! I’ve always been ashamed to admit I have to rely on Medicaid for my son, but right now, I’m very thankful he has it. My husband and I strive to give our son the very best and regardless of what the government tries to do to us we will ensure that our son is taken care of, but as for me it’s cheaper for me to pay doctors outright on a visit by visit basis because I only see a doctor maybe twice a year and BCBS has raised their deductible for their most affordable plan to $6,350/year out of pocket for individual!

  • Branko Pezdi

    Why the shock? Obamacare is not about health care (it doesn’t increase the supply of health care nor does it magically decrease its cost), it is about redistributing income nationwide to some (and by no means all) people who currently don’t have health INSURANCE (they still receive necessary emergency health care, as always). SOMEONE has to pay! This ain’t rocket science.

  • Pamma Ann Williams Baker

    It amazes me the people who are shocked over this. Conservatives have been screaming for years that this would be coming. I can’t believe at the amount of people that have commented in the national medias that they didn’t realize they would have to pay for it. This law is not about health care it’s about control… just wait till it’s fully implemented & you see what all it has the power to do. I’m tired of hearing how it’s the law of the land… so was slavery at one time & women & blacks had no right to vote. Laws can be changed & repealed. This is one of them that needs to go before it’s too late.

    • Wake Up

      Pamma, you are correct about slavery and the women’s vote. The Southern states were also on the wrong side of history on those issues!

      • Branko Pezdi

        Wow! I thought that opposition to Obamacare is a nationwide phenomenon and not just limited to the Southern states. So opposing Obamacare is the equivalent of being pro slavery and anti women’s suffrage? Interesting! Well, not all of us are perfect! Cheers!

      • Wake Up

        Bob, you are correct. I did not say whom was on the wrong side of history, just that the Southern states were on the wrong side. There were many “Dixiecrat” Democrats that were on the wrong side of history. Also, why did you call me James? I have no idea what you mean by that.

    • Sandra Gray

      Pamma, I am just as amazed – You would not believe the people that I talk to that STILL don’t realize they HAVE TO HAVE HEALTH INSURANCE by 01 January 2014.

      Also, that BCBS “affordable” plan only pays 60/40 AFTER all the deductables. (WOW! WHAT A BARGAIN for $1,000 per month!)

  • Wake Up

    That is correct, they will have to “scrap” their old plans that have lifetime caps and restrictions for preexisting conditions and get a new one from the exchange without lifetime caps and restrictions on preexisting conditions. Obamacare requires a certain level of coverage that exceeds many plans that existed before the Affordable Care Act. As a result, you have to expect to pay a little more. With the tax credits, the new plans may cost about the same as the old ones, but with much more coverage. The quote from Blue Cross blue Shield is for the silver plan. This family can get cheaper coverage by purchasing a bronze plan that still has more coverage than their old plan. Once people get past the hatred being spewed about this issue they will soon see that they are getting a better deal.

    • bob

      So ,Now we know, per( James) that the reason Daddy Gore ,voted against the civil rights bill, WAS he was a( Dixiecrat), Well , so that’s the LIB spin , on Albert Gore Sr. Well played!

  • Brad

    The only “expert” you talked to was a shill who works for a health insurance industry lobbying group?

    Swell “journalism” there, WHNT.

    Health insurance premiums have been increasing at 6 times the rate of inflation for nearly 20 years, NOW the insurance industry wants to go “It’s ’cause of Obamacare!”

    Thanks for failing in your responsibility to inform the public and instead pushing biased, dishonest, partisan nonsense and opting to be such a willing and unquestioning regurgitator of industry propaganda.

  • Jeff

    I have a family member that was quoted over $800 a month premium with a $3000 per person deductible and only 60/40 coverage, this person makes less than $24,000 a year.

    Let’s do some math for the quoted over $800 a month who makes less than $24k a year. We’ll round things off to well under average costs for the average American household. $800 a month times 12 = $9600 leaving this person with just over $14,400 a year expendable income before taxes, home payments or rent, car payments, utilities, and food. Ok, remove around 26% (average taxes) of that for taxes so remove $3900 of that leaving them with $10,500. Let’s assume this person pays only $300 a month for a mortage or rent (heh, like that’s realistic) that’s $3600 a year. Thus leaving this person with $6900. Now let’s stay low side, let’s assume that person has utility costs averaging $150 a month so remove another $1800 from that leaving them with $5100. Ok, now we stay low and assume this person has around $200 a month car payment from that $5700 we remove $2400 leaving them with $2700 ($225 a month) expendable income for gas, groceries, deductibles, school supplies, clothes, etc FOR HIS 3 CHILDREN and his wife!! Affordable my butt. And those numbers I’ve given on costs are WELL below average, it’s plausible that this family would have to choose between gas to go to work and pay bills or eating.

    • Wake Up

      Jeff, the case that you provided would qualify for inclusion in the Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act. Since our Governor has decided to refuse to participate in the federally funded Medicaid expansion, your family member will have to go without coverage or pay the high, free-market, premium that you provided in your post. If Alabama were to participate in the Medicaid expansion your family member would qualify for that coverage.

  • Truly Concerned Citizen

    How thick are you “wake up”? This is not a Southern/Northern or even an Eastern/Western thing for that matter. This is just another opportunity to distroy the middle class. Lets just sit back and relax, by 2016 we’ll all be on the streets.

  • Mw

    Yep……I’ve been a paying customer of blue cross for about 6 years. I’m 30 yrs old, married, have 2 kids and we are all healthy. I got my letter from bcbs last Saturday stating my premium of 333/mo (which is what I’ve paid for last 3.5 yrs) will go to 690/mo in January 2014. If my calculations are right that’s about a 107% increase. I will say that I will definitely be dropping my coverage at the end of the year, and I WILL NOT pay any penalty either. Whether or not my family has health insurance is no ones business but mine. I’m afraid that This is the beginning of something very bad.

    • Branko Pezdi

      Actually, January 20, 2009 marked the beginning of something very bad, in many ways the most catastrophic event to ever hit the country. Sadly, Americans did it to themselves.

  • the outlaw

    fraudulent control by health care: check. next step merge the u.s., canada and mexico. it’s all in line now.

  • Branko Pezdi

    Left unmentioned (misleadingly so) in the posts above about Medicaid expansion is the fact that beginning in 2017 there would be compulsory spending that would skyrocket, quickly surpassing any modest savings from Obamacare reductions in state payments to providers for uncomensated care. This is a poison pill in the fraud known as Obamacare and Governor Bentley is entirely correct in rejecting it.

  • Branko Pezdi

    Ben Stein has a great take on the nightmarish Obamacare monstrosity:

    “Fathom the hypocrisy of a government that requires every citizen to prove they are insured…. but not everyone must prove they are a citizen. And now, any of those who refuse, or are unable, to prove they are citizens will receive free insurance paid by those who are forced to buy insurance because they are citizens.”

    • Branko Pezdi

      The same federal government, by the way, that is actively trying to destroy the integrity of the voting booth.

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