Check health insurance costs yet? You can do it without the balky federal website

When it opened, that federal website for the insurance marketplace barely worked. This was a big implementation failure.

The website is getting better, but even so, maybe you want to check what insurance would cost, without having to register at the federal site.

If so, try the Health Sherpa website.

  1. It starts you off by putting in your zip code.
  2. Then, at the top left, you enter the age of people in your household.
  3. You can check the boxes if they’re smokers.
  4. At the bottom you enter your household income and size.

And then you can see all the plans and, taking account the subsidy you’ll receive, the final cost to you. Or you can filter and see just bronze or silver or gold plans. (Or catastrophic plans, which you can get if you’re under 30).

I tried some for people in the 04401 area code (Bangor).

A family with one 32 year old and one 5 year old, with an annual income of $35,000 could get bronze level insurance for as low as $125.83 a month.

The cost is this low because there’s a subsidy of $270.96.

The cheapest silver level plan would be $191.83, while the cheapest gold level would be $338.33.

This same family, with a bit lower income, of $28,000 could get a bronze plan for as little as $98.56 a month and a silver one of $161.08.

Let’s say the family is larger and makes more money.

For a family of four with adults who are 43 and 45, with 15 year old twins, and an annual income of $50,000 a year, the lowest cost for a bronze plan covering all of them would be $154.20.  The cheapest silver plan would be $238.82.

If that same family made $75,000 a year, the lowest cost bronze plan for all of them is $405.39 a month. The cheapest silver plan would be $552.11.

These families would get substantial subsidies.

They don’t have to pay the full price and get reimbursed later. Instead, when they buy through the federal website, the subsidy will be automatically delivered to the insurance company as the family pays its share of the cost.

Check out some scenarios for yourself.

No doubt, this system will change over time. But it’s not going away.

The next time there’s any possibility of repealing the Affordable Care Act is January 2017, when a new president takes office. By then, many millions will be getting subsidized insurance and Medicaid because of the law. It’s very unlikely that system and insurance regulations can be dislodged then.

Amy Fried

About Amy Fried

Amy Fried loves Maine's sense of community and the wonderful mix of culture and outdoor recreation. She loves politics in three ways: as an analytical political scientist, a devoted political junkie and a citizen who believes politics matters for people's lives. Fried is Professor of Political Science at the University of Maine. Her views do not reflect those of her employer or any group to which she belongs.