Aug. 25--HELENA -- So, last week we finally got the numbers on what you'll pay for a subsidized health insurance policy under Obamacare. For a lot of people, it looks like a pretty good deal, paying monthly net premiums of $100 or less for quality coverage.
But then comes the next question: Will people actually buy these policies? Will this huge experiment with government-financed, private health insurance really work?
And, another other question: How much will it all cost? Might these extensive subsidies cost more than expected, and break the federal bank?
Good questions all -- but we're not likely to get definitive answers anytime soon.
Still, it's pretty clear what must happen if this new policy is to be considered anything close to a success: Millions of people without health insurance must sign up and buy these new policies.
It's also important that not just older and less-healthy people buy the policies from the new Obamacare Internet "marketplace," because younger, healthier customers are needed to keep the risk pool in balance.
To accomplish this goal, the Obama administration and its supporters are betting on, and throwing a whole lot of money at, a public-private partnership of massive proportion.
The subsidies are projected to cost about $1.1 trillion over the next 10 years, according to the Congressional Budget Office. For that price, an estimated 24 million Americans will have health insurance through the marketplace by 2023.
That money goes directly into the coffers of private insurance companies, after which the majority of it filters down to hospitals, physicians and other medical providers in the form of claims paid for insured medical services.
Three firms in Montana are selling policies on the Internet marketplace: Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Montana, PacificSource and the new Montana Health Co-op. If they don't sell the policies, they don't get the money.
So, don't call it government health care. Rather, it's private insurance and private providers getting a huge public push and a heavier hand of public regulation, to expand coverage to some of the uninsured in America.
There's also another subsidy many people don't know about. Next year, everyone with health coverage -- those in group plans, self-insured plans or with individual policies -- will be charged $5.25 per month that goes into a "reinsurance pool."
This pool will cover portions of expensive claims from people who buy policies on the marketplace, for the next three years.
It essentially creates a financial backup for companies selling policies on the exchange. If the people buying these policies turn out to be sicker and more expensive to cover than expected, this pool helps cover the cost.
So, your tax money and a fee on your insurance premiums are helping to finance this grand venture.
The new policies on the marketplace go on sale Oct. 1 and take effect Jan. 1 -- the first day of the first year when all Americans are supposed to have health insurance or pay a tax penalty.
For 80 percent to 90 percent of the population, the tax penalty won't mean much. They already have health insurance or may have access to it, through expanded government programs like Medicaid.
Most of the remainder are expected to buy policies on the new Internet marketplace. The government and the companies selling the polices must convince millions of Americans that private health insurance is not a rip-off, is affordable, and is worthwhile, even if you're healthy.
Will it work? Those involved in the program are cautiously optimistic, but acknowledge it may be a long slog, with success measured not within months, but years into the future.
But we'll still get a taste in the coming months, as Obamacare unfolds.
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