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Tax Credit Softens Health Insurance Sticker Shock

Crunch the numbers and compare the plans. That's the advice to those enrolling for 2017 health coverage under the Affordable Care Act. (Greg Stotelmyer)
Crunch the numbers and compare the plans. That's the advice to those enrolling for 2017 health coverage under the Affordable Care Act. (Greg Stotelmyer)
November 28, 2016

JACKSON, Ky. – Open enrollment for 2017 health-insurance coverage under the Affordable Care Act is in full swing, and Kentuckians are being advised to shop around. With a switch in governors, Kentucky has moved away from operating its own state-based exchange, and folks must now shop for insurance on HealthCare.gov. The state had warned that individual premiums could increase from eight percent to 65 percent, depending on the provider.

Angela Burns, a Healthcare.gov application assister in Jackson, said many who receive a subsidy had "sticker shock" at first, in part because of confusing notices from insurers. But once she helped them through the process and the Advanced Premium Tax Credit was factored in, Burns said their fears were eased.

"Kind of a mixed bag of it, really," she said. "One lady paid $10 less than her previous plan; one gentleman just paid $10 more; and then, I had another gentleman, his plan up went up about $35."

Burns said she has seen increases in 2017 deductibles in many of the health plans. She advises people to compare their coverage options by using the price plan tool on HealthCare.gov.

Jackson resident Scotty Minnix got help from Angela Burns to navigate the system. He's 62, retired after more than 40 years as a surface miner and mechanic. He now gets insurance through the Affordable Care Act and qualifies for the tax credit subsidy. Yet, Minnix said he supports President-elect Donald Trump's call to repeal and replace the law.

"I don't mind 'em getting rid of Obamacare, because I don't think Obamacare was a good thing," he said. "I didn't think it was a fair system. Anytime that the government can tell you that you have to do something, to me it's not a good idea."

Trump won by a two-to-one margin over Hillary Clinton in Kentucky, even though more than 500,000 Kentuckians now get their insurance through the ACA. Minnix said after an initial notice that his health insurance would nearly double in 2017, with the subsidy it's actually going to be $9 less.

Despite his misgivings about the law, Minnix said, "It helps me a great deal. I can afford what they're charging me now, but if I didn't have the subsidy, I'd be without insurance, because I was for awhile."

Greg Stotelmyer , Public News Service - KY