According to a study released in September, 2017 by eHealth, Inc.(NASDAQ:EHTH), which operates eHealth.com, the average family of three earning slightly too much to qualify for subsidies in 2018 would need to increase its household income by nearly $29,000 before health insurance became “affordable” based on Obamacare criteria.
The Affordable Care Act (ACA or Obamacare) considers health insurance to be “unaffordable” when annual premiums for the lowest-priced plan in a market cost more than 8.16% of a household’s modified adjusted gross income (or MAGI). When health insurance is unaffordable by this standard, individuals and families may qualify for an exemption from Obamacare’s individual mandate to buy health insurance.
Government subsidies are available to people earning up to 400% of the federal poverty level, but middle-income households earning 401% or more of the federal poverty level are not eligible for subsidy assistance. If you fall into this group that isn’t eligible for government subsidies, we can help you.
In preparing its analysis, eHealth reviewed the lowest-price 2017 plan available for families of three comprised of two adults age 35 and one child. The same family model was analyzed using data from Healthcare.gov in 40 cities, data from eHealth.com in 9 cities not utilizing Healthcare.gov, and data from the New York state exchange for New York City.
After applying a relatively modest annual rate increase of 10% to 2017 rates to project 2018 rates, eHealth discovered the following:
In 47 of 50 cities surveyed, the lowest-priced plan would be officially unaffordable under Obamacare affordability standards for families earning 401% of the federal poverty level (about $82,000 per year in the contiguous US, making them ineligible for Obamacare subsidies).
Among these, the average three-person household would need to earn an additional $28,939 per year before the lowest-cost plan becomes affordable according to Obamacare rules.
These figures are based on a uniform, conservative 10% increase in health insurance premiums between 2017 and 2018. In fact, some independent projections for 2018 have estimated that premiums may increase 20% or more on average. There will likely be significant variability in the actual rate increase in 2018 for each plan and each market.
Specific findings for surveyed cities are found below. A detailed analysis providing additional context may also be reviewed as an appendix prepared by eHealth which pairs the findings here with demographic data describing each city’s median age, median household size, and median income.
“Coverage under the Affordable Care Act is becoming seriously unaffordable for many families, even by Obamacare’s own rules,” said eHealth CEO Scott Flanders. “I find it hard to believe that the framers of the law ever intended the cost of family health insurance to rival that of a second mortgage. Without the introduction of lower-cost options into the market or expanded government subsidies, many middle-income Americans are in danger of being priced out of the health insurance market entirely.”

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