A few months ago, Blue Cross told him it was terminating his catastrophic policy, which cost $196 a month, because it didn’t comply with Obamacare requirements. So he then went looking for another policy. Initially, his insurance agent told him the cheapest plan he could get on the Covered California exchange was $500. Later, he looked into a catastrophic plan offering, which the exchange’s shop and compare tool lists at $364, but he found even that too expensive. So Brumfield is heading into 2014 without coverage even though he has a dangerous side job training horses. A few days after New Year’s, he discovered that Blue Cross had automatically rolled him into a new policy with a $513-a-month premium, but he has no intention of activating it. His one last shot at getting insurance this year depends on whether he’d qualify for a premium subsidy available to individuals making less than $46,000 in 2014. That could get him a policy for less than what he used to pay. But since he’s self employed, his income can vary widely from year to year. As a result, he wants to wait until his does his taxes for 2013 before making an estimate for 2014. Regardless, he’s leaning against buying a subsidized plan since it would mean hoping his business ventures do poorly this year.
Health care job losses for first time in decade
It’s not so surprising that the health care sector, which had reliably added jobs even through the Great Recession, is finally taking a breather, experts said. The industry is in the midst of a restructuring aimed at slowing the growth in costs and improving quality. “There needs to be a pause, which may lead to a reduction of jobs,” said Stuart Altman, a health policy professor at Brandeis University. Friday’s dour news comes on the heels of another federal report released this week that showed health care spending growth remained low for the fourth year in a row. Spending on health care grew by only 3.7% in 2012, according to data released Monday by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. “Since health spending has slowed down, we should expect at least some layoffs — though not many,” said Uwe E. Reinhardt, an economics professor at Princeton University. Jobs end year on a downer Experts said the drop in health care is likely to be only temporary. It could even be reversed if the government revises the figures upward when it releases the next jobs report in February, noted Dartmouth Economics Professor Jonathan Skinner. But even if the December health care jobs number remains negative, demographic trends suggest the industry’s payrolls will have to grow again soon. “In the long run, given the aging of the population and the need for health care, jobs will be added in the future,” Altman said.
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