"This law has raped my future," 26-year-old Ashley Dionne wrote of Obamacare, and in a few days it made her the new face of the anti-Obamacare effort. Dionne's complaint, posted on October 7 on Tumblr and on conservative radio host Dennis Prager's Facebook fan page, went viral among conservative media. Her post was picked up by the conservative college site Campus Reform, American Thinker, the Drudge Report, Red Alert Politics, The Blaze, and Mediaite. Dionne says Obamacare will make her monthly premium skyrocket from $75 a month to $319 — an incredible financial burden, because she makes only $8 an hour.
There's a reason Dionne's Obamacare burden sounds incredible. It is. Dionne graduated from the University of Michigan in 2009, and "finally found work at a gym," she says. She works 32 hours a week for $8 an hour. That's just over Michigan's minimum wage of $7.40, and it puts her annual income at $13,312 a year. Dionne wrote:
Liberals claimed this law would help the poor. I am the poor, the working poor, and I can’t afford to support myself, let alone older generations and people not willing to work at all.
While many stories warn that Obamacare will lead to a rate shock — a spike in premiums, especially for young people — they fail to mention that those same young people often qualify for large subsidies in the form of tax credits. This time is no different. We don't want to go around telling people what they can and cannot afford, so luckily we don't have to, as Dionne shouldn't be paying $319 a month for health insurance. Her income is 122 percent of the poverty level in Michigan, which will expand Medicaid — free or low cost health insurance — to individuals making less than $15,800 a year starting in April. Dionne's in that boat, so she doesn't even need to buy insurance through the exchange.
But, let's just say that, for whatever reason, Dionne doesn't want to enroll in Medicaid (a woman claiming to be Ashley's mother commented on the Campus Reform article saying Dionne "would rather starve" than go on Medicaid). Okay, fine. But we're not sure what plan she wants to enroll in that would cost her $319 a month, either. According to Kaiser Health's Subsidy Calculator, a nonsmoker in Michigan with no dependents making $14,000 a year (we rounded up) qualifies for a $2,272 tax credit. So while her yearly premium would be $2,552 for the Silver Plan — or $212.67 a month — she'd only have to pay that if she gambled away her tax credit in Vegas. Her post-tax credit premium boils down to $280, or $23.33 a month.
And, just for fun, let's say Dionne's non-Medicaid, non-Silver Plan did cost $319 a month, or $3,828 a year. After her subsidy, the plan would cost $1,556, or about $130 a month. That's more than her current plan, but not even close to $319 a month, the point at which futures are destroyed.
Insurance plans vary by location, and young people will have to pay higher premiums to subsidize the policies of the old, the sick and those with pre-existing conditions (Dionne has three — asthma, ulcers and cerebral palsy). There have also been reports of people with insurance having their plans cancelled, only to be offered plans two to three times more expensive, because insurance prices are rising and their old plans didn't meet the standards of the Affordable Care Act. But to say that the Affordable Care Act will keep young adults barely making minimum wage "from having a future at all," as Dionne put it, with premiums that eat up nearly half their salaries, isn't accurate.
The pro-Obamacare side has its own not-quite-accurate face. Getting young people to sign up for Obamacare is key to the program's survival, which is why last week 21-year-old Chad Henderson became the poster child for the movement when several media outlets reported that he was possibly the first person to sign up for health insurance on the Obamacare exchanges. It then turned out that he hadn't registered and was in fact also a volunteer for President Obama's grassroots movement Organizing for Action. Maybe both sides of the debate should spend a little more time vetting their young spokespeople.
(Screenshot via Kaiser Family Foundation's Subsidy Calculator.)
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.