Traverse City Record-Eagle

Region

September 29, 2013

The cost of health care

TRAVERSE CITY — Jane Bates said she and her co-workers like to joke that “you’ve got to be a redneck if you have to get a second job to pay for the gas for your first job.”

Bates works about 24 hours a week, driving from Fife Lake to clean two medical buildings at night. She hasn’t had health insurance for 15 years.

“I am afraid to go to the doctor, to the hospital or anything. It’s scary. I’m so far in debt right now,” said Bates, 58.

Bates is close to finishing a probationary period for a full-time dental assistant job, which pays health insurance.

The Grand Traverse region is a highly touted living destination, prized for its beauty, yet nearly 20,000 people — many of the area’s waitresses, ice cream scoopers, coffee pourers, construction and manufacturing workers — are uninsured.

On October 1, they can start singing up for insurance on the Michigan Health Insurance Marketplace by logging onto www.healthcare.gov.

“I’m blissful that it’s here,” Bates said of the Affordable Care Act. “But a lot of people are leery about what it will cost.”

The “affordable” in the law’s title is just that for the neediest. Individuals with an annual income of $17,000 will pay a monthly premium of $57,after tax credits, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.

Sign-up must be completed by Dec. 15 in order for coverage to start Jan. 1. Enrollment effectively ends on March 31, except for special circumstances.

Those who decide against buying health insurance must pay a penalty. An individual must pay 1 percent of his or her annual income in 2014 or $95 a year, whichever is greater, and an additional $47.50 per child. By 2016, the penalty soars to 2.5 percent of income or $695 per person, whichever is higher.

Dave Hall, a licensed electrician who lives in Cedar, would pay about $300 a month for individual insurance on the exchange.

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