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Health Insurance Still not Affordable for Everyone, Study Reports

Update Date: Sep 09, 2014 11:41 AM EDT
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The Affordable Care Act was created to increase people's access to health insurance without putting a huge burden on their finances. Despite the goals behind this act, a new study is reporting that health insurance is still not affordable for everyone living in the United States.

For this study, the researchers examined the different premium variations based on people's age, income and region. The team also looked at the affordability of these plans after subsidies, which are money given by the federal government to help keep costs of services low.

According to the experts, the group of people who are the most vulnerable is made up of older adults who make a little bit more than the cutoff line that would have qualified them for federal premium subsidies. The researchers also found that for younger adults, they often have to pay higher premiums than older adults even after their subsidies.

"The fact that they actually have to pay more with the subsidies is a little bit concerning and surprising," Ilana Graetz, assistant professor in the department of preventive medicine at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center in Memphis and the study's lead author, said according to WebMD.

Jonathan Wu, the CEO of ValuePenguin.com, which is a website that allows people to compare health plan premiums, subsidies and benefits, added, "When you create a complex system of rules to govern things like subsidies and premiums, especially without any insight as to what insurers will charge for insurance after the law has been passed, you're going to run into these problems."

Under this act, the majority of Americans must have health insurance or they will face a penalty, which has to be paid alongside their federal taxes. However, for people who cannot afford insurance, their penalty is exempted. Insurance is considered unaffordable if the costs surpass eight percent of the person's total income. For individuals who earn an annual income of $46,460, or up to 400 percent of the federal poverty level, they would qualify for subsidies, which would reduce their premiums. For individuals who make more than that yearly income, they cannot get any subsidies, which can end up making health care unaffordable.

The report calculated that a 50-year-old person, whose annual income is just one percent too high, would not be able to buy affordable health insurance in more than one-third of the counties in the U.S. For a 64-year-old person who has the same income situation, he/she would not be able to purchase affordable health insurance in 97 percent of the counties. These older adults end up missing out on health insurance.

The study was published in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

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