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Faces of the Affordable Care Act: Falling through the cracks of the health law

November 22, 2013 J

Cheryl Landes hasn’t been able to afford health insurance for the last couple years, and the implementation of the Affordable Care Act won’t likely change that.

Landes is a full-time freelance technical writer living in east Vancouver. Until about two years ago, Landes worked through an agency that offered insurance coverage. When her contract ended, Landes paid the $450 a month to continue her insurance under the COBRA law.

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Editor’s note: This is the fourth in a series of stories looking at how the Affordable Care Act affects residents of Clark County.

The Columbian is sharing the stories of residents who have found cheaper health insurance through the state-based exchange, qualified for expanded Medicaid, opted to pay a penalty rather than purchase a health plan or are unhappy with the new insurance offerings.

She looked into individual health plans, but found even the least expensive plans cost about $600 per month.

“There was just no way,” Landes, 54, said.

Once her COBRA benefits ran out, Landes became one of the county’s estimated 57,000 uninsured residents. She did find and buy dental insurance for $54 per month.

When the state-based insurance exchange, Washington Healthplanfinder, opened for business last month, Landes browsed the plans to see whether its premiums were more affordable.

Landes’ income varies from year to year, but she said she usually makes more than $46,000 — the threshold for her to qualify for a federal tax credit. She plugged a few different income scenarios into the website, http://www.wahealthplanfinder.org.

The cheapest plans she found — bronze-level plans, for which the insurer pays 60 percent of medical costs and the policyholder pays 40 percent — have monthly premiums ranging from $350 to $500 and annual deductibles of $5,000 to $6,000. Silver and gold plans cost more.

Health insurance profile

• Name: Cheryl Landes.

• Age: 54.

• Family members: Single.

• Annual family income: More than $46,000 (threshold for subsidy).

• Current coverage: Uninsured.

• Qualify for federal subsidy? No.

• New coverage: Pay penalty.

Without tax credits, Landes said all those plans are too expensive for her budget.

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