Faces of the Affordable Care Act: Parents' policy fine for now, but then what?

By Marissa Harshman, Columbian health reporter



Health insurance profile

Name: Kurtis Williams.

Age: 25.

Family members: Single.

Annual family income: $25,000.

Current coverage: Parents’ insurance.

Qualify for federal subsidy? Unknown.

New coverage: Parents’ insurance.

On the Web:

This is the sixth in a series of stories looking at how the Affordable Care Act affects residents of Clark County.

In this series, 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.

All of the stories will be available on The Columbian’s Examining Health Reform site, www.columbian.com/news/health/examining-health-reform

Kurtis Williams isn't a fan of the Affordable Care Act, but he does see at least one benefit to the new law.

"The one redeeming thing is, I'm on my parents' plan," Williams said.

Under the Affordable Care Act, children can remain on their parents' insurance plans until they turn 26, even if they're not financially dependent on their parents or are eligible to enroll in their own employer's plan.

That gives Williams, 25, one more year to decide what he will do once he can no longer get coverage through his parents. Williams has asthma and allergies, which makes health insurance, especially prescription coverage, important to him. He also wants to be covered in case something unexpected happens, such as a car accident.

But beyond prescription and catastrophic coverage, Williams said he doesn't have much need for other health plan benefits.

Williams works full-time at the Shilo Inn corporate office near Cedar Hills, Ore., but he lives with his parents in Vancouver. He hopes to soon move to Beaverton, Ore., to be closer to work.

Williams is eligible to get insurance through his employer, but the plan is costly, Williams said. The monthly premium is about $180, and the deductible is about $5,000.

"I wouldn't even probably hit the deductible, so I'd just be paying out of pocket anyway," he said. "So I don't see too much use in that."

If Williams remains in Washington, the state-based insurance exchange, Washington Healthplanfinder, may offer some less expensive options with the help of tax credits. But Williams may not be eligible for credits, even though his income is low enough.

Under the Affordable Care Act, those with employer-provided plans that are considered "affordable" and meet "minimum value" aren't eligible for tax credits.

Plans are considered affordable if the employee portion of the premiums are less than 9.5 percent of the person's income. Plans meet minimum value if they cover 60 percent of medical costs and the person with coverage pays 40 percent.

Without the tax credit, the lowest priced plans for Williams — bronze plans, which cover 60 percent of costs — range in price from $180 to $235. Those plans have deductibles of $5,000 to $6,000.

If eligible, Williams' tax credit would be about $70.

But even if he is eligible for less expensive plans, Williams is conflicted about using the exchange. If it's within his budget, Williams said he'd rather pay a little more for his employer-provided plan and avoid the exchange.

"Philosophically, I don't like the government forcing this down my throat," he said. "I don't want to help them run the system."