Press play to hear Jared Blitz tell his story.
If the Supreme Court rules that Obamacare subsidies in more than 30 states are illegal, millions will lose their health insurance because they won’t be able to afford it. Others will keep their plans in spite of the subsidies disappearing -- and that’s a problem, too.
Jared Blitz, 33, knows he needs medical care and has a costly surgery on the horizon. Because his subsidy is small, he plans to keep his insurance even if the high court rules against the law.
“For somebody like me, I can handle it,” said Blitz, who lives in Mesa, Arizona. “I also think of health care as being one of the major priorities because I have a heart condition, so if I have to pay a higher premium, that’s something I don’t have an issue with. So the subsidies would be nice, but I can make due if I don’t have it, just because I’ll sacrifice elsewhere.”
Eliminating the subsidies will drive people out of the insurance market, and those who remain will mainly be people with costly medical conditions who need the coverage most, like Blitz. This will drive up costs for insurers and lead to rate hikes for everyone left in an increasingly volatile market.
Blitz was born with a heart condition called aortic valve stenosis, meaning one of his heart valves is too narrow. Soon, perhaps later this year, he will need another surgery to stay alive. The operation cost $200,000 when he was 17, and his next will cost about $50,000. Blitz also needs tests on his heart every year that cost up to $3,000.
Blitz went uninsured for a time after finishing graduate school as he endured rejections by health insurers. One company offered to insure everything but his heart, essentially providing useless coverage for someone with his condition. He finally settled for a plan that exposed him to unlimited out-of-pocket costs and would have left big expenses uncovered if he’d needed surgery or had a medical emergency.
When Affordable Care Act enrollment started, Blitz signed up for a plan with better coverage than his old insurance at a slightly lower cost. He gets a small subsidy that was $50 a month last year and $20 a month this year. Blitz earns about $25,000 a year as a part-time college professor. Arizona’s health insurance exchange is run by the federal government because the state declined to establish its own.The lawsuit before the Supreme Court claims subsidies are only legal in state-run exchanges, not federal ones.
What really concerns Blitz is the possibility that the Affordable Care Act’s rule that insurance companies have to cover people with pre-existing conditions will go away, something congressional Republicans favor as part of repealing Obamacare.
“They may as well line me up and kick me in the balls,” Blitz said. “That’s just brutal to do to people. I don’t get it. There’s no humanity in what’s going on.”
For more personal stories about the real-life effects of the Supreme Court case, go to Courting Disaster: Obamacare Is Back At The Supreme Court, And These Six Lives Hang In The Balance.
The audio interviews in this feature were produced and edited by Ibrahim Balkhy and Brad Shannon.