As the end of the Affordable Care Act’s open enrollment period draws near, President Obama has been making the rounds to push his signature legislation in hopes of ramping up enrollment numbers. He appeared on online parody talk show “Between Two Ferns” two weeks ago, and stopped by the “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” last week. During both appearances, he claimed that insurance costs could be as low as monthly cell phone bills.
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“You can, at this point, get health insurance for $100 a month or less. In some cases less than your cell phone bill or cable bill,” Obama told DeGeneres.
But the math isn’t that simple.
The government announced in September that the average premium cost for Americans without subsidies would be $328 for a mid-tier silver plan, but the cost varies nationwide.
Under the ACA, subsidies are available for those making up to 400% of the federal poverty level, which comes to about $45,000 for an individual and $94,000 for a family of four. Those who do not have insurance by the end of open enrollment period will face a fine of $95 a year, or 1% of their annual income for failing to comply.
For some, opting for the fine may be the more affordable option until heftier penalties start in 2016.
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Differences in pricing for coverage from state to state is a big part of the problem.
For example, according to in New York’s state exchange website, New York State of Health, a New Yorker making $25,000 a year—which is 218% of the federal poverty level— would qualify for a hefty subsidy to lower the cost of their insurance. For a silver plan on the state exchange, the middle tier of coverage, the lowest premium payment for an individual available on the “window shopping feature” is $138 a month. On the high end, a silver plan would cost $421 a month, with a subsidy.
Here’s how ObamaCare premiums in New York stack up against a few typical monthly expenses:
Cell Phone Bills
Nationwide, the average monthly cell bill is less than the New York City premiums based on the data input.
According to a report, Verizon (VZ) offers 2GB plans for about $90 a month, while AT&T (T) offers a similar 2GB plan for $80 a month. Both Sprint and T-Mobile (PCS) offer unlimited cell phone plans for $80 a month.
While there are many different cable plans and providers available, the NPD Group reports that on average, nationwide bills are about $90 a month, without internet bundled. The nationwide average is nearly $50 less than the lowest tier of silver coverage for a New Yorker making $25,000 a year.
Electric bills can vary greatly nationwide, but according to the most recent data from the National Association of Home Builders in 2012, New Mexico residents faced the highest monthly electric bills at $122, which is still less expensive than coverage for a New Yorker making $25,000 a year.