But the President’s concession is still dangerous because it opens the door for Republicans to argue that people ought to be able to choose whatever health insurance policy they want — next year and beyond. Not only would this undermine the minimum standards in the Act. It would also enable healthier people to leave those who are sicker or with pre-existing health problems behind in the new federal system. The obvious result would be to drive up premiums and costs of the federal system so high it couldn’t be maintained. Remember: The Act requires insurance companies to take people with pre-existing conditions and bars them from dropping policies of people who become seriously ill. Republicans have never supported this. They apparently don’t give a damn about these people, and don’t want healthier and younger people to have to subsidize them. They prefer social Darwinism, survival of the fittest.
The insurance market under Obamacare, in other words, is supposed to be a friendlier one than what exists right now. And that’s what Trader Joe’s seems to be betting on with its move: that its workers will see similar options without the grocery store footing the full bill.
Whether this will be true is hard to game out at this point. The Huffington Post did talk to one Trader Joe’s worker who estimated that she earned about $20,000 and currently pays $70 a month for a pretty robust health plan. Trader Joe’s plans to kick in $500 for each employee, or about $40 per month. So we’re looking at a total of $110 to spend on the marketplace each month, if spending holds to the same level as what Trader Joe’s workers pay right now.
The rate data we have so far (largely from the Kaiser Family Foundation) suggest that comparable premiums will be available for someone earning $20,000. Using a calculator that Kaiser helped build, it shows that a 25-year-old who makes that much here in the District would pay $85 for a middle-of-the-road plan and $26 for the bare-bones option. Premiums are a bit higher for those who are older, and a little lower for younger subscribers.
As for what Trader Joe’s decision means for the health-care law, that’s not totally clear either. On the one hand, it likely makes the health law more expensive: Trader Joe’s is essentially shifting the costs it used to pay for health insurance onto the federal government. On the other, bigger marketplaces are good for the health law. More subscribers make it more likely that insurers will want to sell and, if Trader Joes’ employees tend to be younger, they’ll likely help hold down the cost of premiums there