Community Centers Warn That Poor Won’t Keep Paying Obamacare Premiums

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While the Obamacare debate has so far focused on who’s paid their first premium, a better question may be who can afford to keep paying for health insurance month after month.

Christine Wagner, the executive director of a Catholic health care community center in New York called the St. Joseph  Neighborhood Center, warns that many low-income people that have signed up won’t be able to keep up paying for their health insurance.

“We’ve waited the 90 days, 120 days, and we’re seeing the reproductions of people who bought new policies, but haven’t been able to maintain them,” Wagner told WXXI News. “So, we’re seeing the unfolding of some of the consequences of some of these new policies that people actually weren’t able to maintain.”

WXXI notes that Wagner supports Obamacare but is looking for improvements to the current law.

Wagner told WXXI that around 200 clients of St. Joseph enrolled in the exchange, but some can’t afford to keep paying the premiums. Others, Wagner said, opted not to sign up because even with federal subsidies, health plans were too expensive.

The complaint is not exclusive to Wagner’s clinic: an April tracking poll from the Kaiser Family Foundation determined that the top reason that people are remaining uninsured is the cost. Thirty-nine percent of uninsured respondents told Kaiser that they couldn’t afford health insurance.

The current set-up of the health care law means that St. Joseph’s and doctors across the country will have to take on the cost of caring for those who stop paying their premiums themselves.

Obamacare grants all enrollees a 90-day grace period after a premium payment is missed before their insurer is allowed to cancel the coverage. For the first 30 days, the insurance company is required to cover any care the customer receives; but for the final 6o days before the policy is canceled, doctors will be required to eat the cost of any health care services they provide.

At a Wednesday congressional hearing, several top insurers participating in the federal Obamacare exchanges told the House Energy and Commerce committee that doctors may call the insurance company to determine whether a person is currently insured.

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