Home / Blog / Article

November 16 2015

High Deductibles Trouble Many ObamaCare Customers

Patrice J. Lee

ObamaCare customers who have managed to sign up for policies with low premiums are noticing something interesting: the high deductibles mean that they won't get much use from their policies.

For this round of enrollments, the Administration claims customers can get plans with premiums for less than $75 per month. Health and Human Services says that premiums for eight out of ten returning customers will be less than $100 a month after tax credits.

If so, most of these low premiums are available only because of taxpayer-funded subsidies, which more than  80 percent of ObamaCare customers obtain. These plans come with high deductibles.

A new review from the New York Times finds that more than half of the plans offered through Healthcare.gov carry a deductible of $3,000 or more, which means that the first three thousand in medical expenses are on the policy holder.  

The New York Times reports:

“We could not afford the deductible,” said Kevin Fanning, 59, who lives in North Texas, near Wichita Falls. “Basically I was paying for insurance I could not afford to use.”

He dropped his policy.


In Miami, the median deductible, according to HealthCare.gov, is $5,000. (Half of the plans are above the median, and half below it.) In Jackson, Miss., the comparable figure is $5,500. In Chicago, the median deductible is $3,400. In Phoenix, it is $4,000; in Houston and Des Moines, $3,000.


Health officials and insurance counselors cite several mitigating factors. All plans must cover preventive services like mammograms and colonoscopies without a deductible or co-payment. Some plans may help pay for some items, like generic drugs or visits to a primary care doctor, before patients have met the deductible. Under the Affordable Care Act, health plans must have an overall limit on out-of-pocket costs, to protect people with serious illness against financial ruin.


Another consumer, Anne Cornwell of Chattanooga, Tenn., said she was excited when Congress passed the Affordable Care Act because she had been uninsured for several years. She is glad that she and her husband now have insurance, because he has had tonsil cancer, heart problems and kidney stones this year.

But with a $10,000 deductible, it has still not been easy.

“When they said affordable, I thought they really meant affordable,” she said.

We have highlighted the rising premium costs this year, but perhaps the bigger story of this enrollment period is that even with low premiums, newly insured Americans say that they will have to struggle to get access to affordable care.  

The trade-off between high deductibles and low monthly premiums is not new or unknown. But ObamaCare clients were not expecting this. Choosing the cheapest monthly plan is great if you don’t plan to visit the doctor’s office very often and are in good health - such as young, healthy people. Those with chronic illnesses, injuries, or disease that will need many doctor’s visits and treatment usually pick plans with higher premiums, but low deductibles.  The ObamaCare customers whose incomes make them eligible for subsidies say that they are finding the situation difficult.

We need innovation and less government intervention in the healthcare space. Only a free-market, patient-centered system can provide opportunity for competition to meet the healthcare needs of Americans.

Independent Women’s Forum’s mission is to improve the lives of Americans by increasing the number of women who value free markets and personal liberty. Sister organization of Independent Women’s Voice.
Follow us