Skip to comments.How to Opt Out of Obamacare
Posted on 12/11/2013 12:57:27 PM PST by RKBA Democrat
December has arrived, and the deadline to apply for health insurance through the Affordable Care Act (better known as Obamacare, of course) that will be effective January 1 is looming large. Recent press accounts suggest the online exchanges are working somewhat better than before, although there are still problems with the federal site and several of the state sites as well.
At the same time that people are being urged to sign up for health insurance by the Obama administration and its allies, others are urging people to opt out of Obamacare, particularly the young who are generally being asked to pay much higher premiums than before. A few of the groups urging people not to sign up for health insurance under Obamacare include Generation Opportunity, Freedom Works, and the Citizens Council for Health Freedom.
I wont bother repeating the arguments of either side here, Ill simply note that its likely tens of millions of Americans will chose to opt out of Obamacare for a variety of reasons. These reasons include not being able to afford health insurance, not finding value in health insurance, and political or ideological opposition to Obamacare. To cite just one source, the Congressional Budget Office estimates that about 30 million people will remain uninsured under Obamacare.
The one thing that is missing from most of the arguments urging people to opt out of Obamacare is what they should do instead. Since most of these messages are aimed primarily at the young, I thought Id share a bit of info on three individuals I know who fell into the young invincible category at one point:
A former college roommate of mine, age 21 or so when diagnosed with testicular cancer Another college friend of mine, age 21 or so when he was severely beaten outside a nightclub and spent several weeks in the hospital A close friend of my wife, age 34 or so when she was diagnosed with breast cancer
This isnt meant to say that young people considering opting out of Obamacare should reconsider. But it does explain, I hope, why I tell people that in my opinion everyone should have some form of coverage against catastrophic medical bills, which isnt the same as saying everyone should have health insurance.
So, in my view, theres a right way to opt out of Obamacare and theres a wrong way to opt out of Obamacare.
Lets start with the wrong way to opt out of Obamacare. This would be declining to buy health insurance, failing to make other arrangements to pay for catastrophic medical expenses, not shopping for care and paying the list price for doctors visits and prescription drugs, and simply relying on the emergency room to get needed care in the event of a major injury or illness.
This approach leaves people who opt out vulnerable to sky-high medical expenses at inflated list or chargemaster rates, and can result in an inability to obtain needed care because of cost. Definitely the wrong way to opt out of Obamacare.
Now for the right way to opt out of Obamacare. Or rather, several of the different right ways to opt out of Obamacare, because there are multiple options to choose from according to your own personal needs and preferences.
First up, protection from major medical bills and getting needed funds to pay for care. Here are a couple of the best options:
Join a health care sharing ministry. These are voluntary, charitable membership organizations that agree to share medical bills among the membership. They function similar to insurance, and are probably the best alternative to conventional health insurance. There are four of them, at least that I know of. Three are open only to practicing Christians (Samaritan Ministries, Christian Healthcare Ministries, and Christian Care Ministry***) while a fourth, Liberty HealthShare, is open to anyone who agrees with their ethical commitment to religious liberty. They operate entirely outside of Obamacares regulations, and typically offer benefits for about half the cost of similar health insurance. Members are also exempt from having to pay the tax for being uninsured. Buy a short-term health insurance policy. These policies usually last between 1 and 11 months (6 months seem to be standard) and are not regulated under Obamacare, and therefore dont offer the same high level of benefits that can drive up costs. Deductibles are available that are higher than what is allowed with Obamacare-compliant health insurance, leading to further savings. They can typically be renewed at the end of the policy, although it is a new policy that wont cover any conditions that occurred under the previous short-term policy. Another limitation is that they often cant be renewed over and over again, it looks like 3 years of coverage is about the maximum. But they are much less expensive than conventional health insurance, and can be a good option for covering major medical expenses. Buy alternative insurance products like fixed-benefit, critical illness, or accident insurance. These policies pay cash in the event you are diagnosed with cancer, spend a night in the hospital, or need some other medical treatment. They cost a fraction of what health insurance costs under Obamacare, and by giving you cash directly you arent locked in to any particular provider network. Another thing to do is to max out your medical and uninsured/underinsured driver coverage amounts under your auto insurance policy, which can pay medical bills if you are hurt in a car accident.
There are a handful of other options for funding major medical expenses, things like charity care, medical fundraising, or personal savings, retirement accounts and home equity loans. But none of these should be anyones first choice unless theyre a multi-millionaire who doesnt mind dipping into their bank account to pay for needed treatment.
Once somebody opting out of Obamacare has gotten their alternative coverage arranged, its time to shop for health care providers and medical treatment in the event you need it. The first thing to remember is that nearly every price in health care is essentially fake. Insurance companies dont pay list prices, and neither should the self-pay patient. Here are the leading ways to find affordable health care at real prices:
For primary care, visit cash-only doctors and retail health clinics. These offer up-front pricing that is usually the same or even less than the discounted rates that insurers pay when their customers visit the doctor. If you expect to need to visit a doctor more than a few times a year, you might want to consider joining a direct primary care practice, which for a modest monthly fee will give you nearly unlimited access to a primary care physician. Sign up for a telemedicine service. These are low-cost options that provide doctors who can treat relatively simple medical needs by talking with patients over the phone, exchanging e-mails, or visiting via a video connection. They are great for common injuries, conditions, and illnesses, providing convenient care at a low cost. For prescription drugs, use generics whenever you can, and be sure to compare prices between different pharmacies. Several of the large chain pharmacies (Walmart, CVS, Target, etc.) offer 1-month supplies for $4 for thousands of common generic drugs, and a couple of online sites (GoodRx.com, WeRx.org) allow you to see which pharmacy in your area offers the best deals for your medications. For more significant medical needs, such as surgical care, go to a facility that provides up-front package pricing for patients paying in cash, like the Surgery Center of Oklahoma and Regency Healthcare. These facilities offer real prices that are typically much less than what most hospitals charge. You can also use a service like MediBid, where doctors bid on providing your treatment, or become a medical tourist. In the event you need to go to your local hospital for an emergency or a scheduled treatment, work with a medical bill negotiation service to get the best price possible. Hospitals typically charge wildly inflated chargemaster prices to people without conventional health insurance, usually between three and five times more than what an insurer would pay for the exact same service. You can also try to negotiate on your own by using a service like Healthcare Blue Book or Pricing Healthcare to find out what insurers are paying, but be prepared to put a lot of time and effort into it if you do.
There are a lot more options for anybody opting out of Obamacare and needing access to affordable health care, which I write about regularly here at The Self-Pay Patient blog and that fill my soon-to-be-released book (naturally, titled The Self-Pay Patient, coming out later this month). But the information here should be enough for people see that there are still plenty of options for affordable health care and financial protection from catastrophic medical expenses if they decide to opt out of Obamacare.
Deciding to opt out of Obamacare is a fairly serious decision. But theres another decision that people who want to opt out need to make, and that is whether they want to do it the right way by doing a little planning and knowing their options, or the wrong way which would be just to opt out and not give the matter any more thought until theyre on the way to the hospital with a busted leg or notice a lump in their breast.
Hopefully anybody considering opting out of Obamacare will take the time to know their options and become savvy self-pay patients, instead of patients who are completely unprepared to find the affordable healthcare they are likely to need at some point.
** UPDATE: A few people have pointed out to me that I neglected to mention the tax for being uninsured. Doh!
So heres the deal: if you join a health care sharing organization, youre exempt from the tax. If the least-expensive Bronze plan in your area costs more than 8% of your adjusted gross income, youre exempt from the tax. Otherwise, youll be taxed 1% of your adjusted gross income in 2014 if youre uninsured, rising to 2.5% by 2016. So someone with an $80,000 income in 2014 will owe an $800 tax, even if they have a fixed-benefit policy, short-term policy, or some other alternative that isnt membership in a health care sharing organization.
One caveat, however: the IRS can only collect the tax by reducing your tax refund. So, no refund equals no tax. Im not necessarily suggesting this as a tax strategy (irritating the IRS just seems like a bad idea on a number of levels), and it wont surprise me at all to see Congress one day try to fix this little loophole. But as the law stands right now, and as the IRS itself has posted (see #25, buried way at the bottom), the only way they have to collect the tax is by taking it from your refund, so if you dont have a refund coming back to you there is no way the IRS can force you to pay the tax.
***UPDATE #2: I listed four health care sharing ministries above, including Christian Care Ministry. What I forgot to mention is that they operate under the name Medi-Share, which many of you may be more familiar with. Thanks to Chuck E. for pointing this out!
H/T to MissMagnolia for telling me about the site. Thanks!
Thanks! FWIW this is not the Sean Parnell who is Gov of Alaska.
I’ve been researching the health care sharing ministries option.
I’m ready to switch to Samaritan ministries when my plan dies in a year.
I hope Obamacare gets repealed, but I feel good about having a contingency plan now if it doesn’t.
So many reasons to avoid Obamacare now.
I would also add that since the penalty/tax accumulates year to year and never goes away (it just sits as an IOU against you) that this means ANY tax refund for the rest of your life, so unless you never plan to buy a home and take advantage of the mortgage credit, have kids and get the child credit, or pretty much take advantage of any tax credit for the rest of your life that would result in you getting a refund.
Thanks for posting.
I thought it was against the law for private insurers to sell policies that do not conform to all ObamaCare rules?
I mean, if it's not against the law, why aren't insurers offering people the same policies they had last year?
The fine is quite low in 2014.
And simply refusing to pay the fine has no legal consequences at all, unless you expect to receive a tax refund.
This is interesting and I have seen this point debated on FR before. Is this one of the unintended good benefits to America? Stopping people from giving Uncle Sam an interest free loan?
“I thought it was against the law for private insurers to sell policies that do not conform to all ObamaCare rules?”
Short term policies are exempt.
“Is this one of the unintended good benefits to America? Stopping people from giving Uncle Sam an interest free loan?”
Not the only one. As people opt out, it will also greatly increase the market for cash and carry medical care. The blog has a lot of articles on the subject.
If you’re a Christian, you should consider “Samaritans” ...
... or MediShare ...
They’ll just print or borrow what they need to make up for what you’re not giving them interest free,
so your savings account or your children end up paying it anyway.
I think it just means if you dont pay the fine and are not due a refund of the fine amount or more the law forbids the IRS from doing anything about it, unlike the income tax.
Its was a political based clause with unintended consequences.
Notice Obama NEVER cites the fine as a reason to sign up.
Become a muzzie?
Muslims don’t get exempted. You have to be a group that is legally outside the SocSec and Medicare jurisdiction.
Amish and Mennonite are in that category.
“You have to be a group that is legally outside the SocSec and Medicare jurisdiction. Amish and Mennonite are in that category.”
As are the health care sharing ministries referenced above.
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