This is one story out of many – 1.8 million, if we want to limit it just to the Americans who’ve been notified by the IRS that they owe hundreds of dollars in overpaid insurance premium credits.
It’s the story of Lynn Herrin, who ended up being diagnosed with oral and neck cancer after she canceled her Obamacare insurance – which no one would accept anyway. Herrin had been told by the IRS that she owed $700, because she’d been overpaid for insurance premium credits (i.e., Obamacare subsidies).
AP reports her tale as follows:
Herrin’s experience is a cautionary tale about acting out of frustration with the new system.
Herrin, of Wimberley, Texas, had sold a family business after her husband’s death and committed to living simply so she could do volunteer work. She signed up for health insurance in 2014 when it became a legal requirement. She was quoted a discounted premium, after tax credits.
But last year at tax time, Herrin said she found out she owed $700 to the IRS – one of 1.8 million taxpayers who had to repay health insurance credits, an average of $860 apiece.
Herrin canceled her policy in disgust, only to be diagnosed with cancer a few months later. She spent about $70,000 in savings on treatment, but was able to sign up for a new policy that started in January.
“I ended up getting mad about it and just canceling, but I’m the one who screwed up,” said Herrin. “It did make me mad that they quoted me an amount, and then I filled out my taxes and I owed. I don’t think it is fair.”
Herrin is right. It isn’t fair. And AP’s little jibe – “a cautionary tale about acting out of frustration” – takes the cake.
Here’s the only thing that matters in a policy sense about Herrin’s plight: it’s a new problem, one that nobody had before, that was created by Obamacare.
Obamacare forced her to pay insurance premiums. It miscalculated her subsidies. It then had the IRS bill her for the overpayment.
The insurance she was paying for had been useless to her anyway, because she couldn’t find anyone who accepted it. So she canceled her policy.
Now, before there was an Obamacare law, Lynn Herrin might well have had no insurance when she was diagnosed with cancer, and might still have had to spend $70,000 on treatment – if she couldn’t get all the treatment she needed as a Medicaid patient.
But she wouldn’t have been forced to pay premiums for insurance that no one would take, nor would she have been billed for $700 by the IRS.
She is no better off under Obamacare. She’s worse off. She had to go through a government-mandated paperwork drill that cost her a lot of money, and yielded no benefits for her. And then she ended up in the same place she would have been if the law hadn’t forced her to do that.
No one knows if she could have found someone to treat her, even if she still had her Obamacare insurance. Obamacare cheerleaders will want to take for granted that she would have. But it would be deceitful to do that, because nobody knows. What we do know is that she couldn’t find doctors to take the plan before she canceled it.
Nor are there any guarantees that Herrin’s insurance would have paid for the procedures she needed. Unless she had a gold-level plan (and given her reported circumstances, the unpopularity of her plan with local doctors, and the size of her subsidy overpayment, I’m guessing she didn’t), it’s quite likely the plan didn’t cover some procedures or common medications. That’s especially likely for rarer types of cancer.
Nothing in this whole episode is about making sure Lynn Herrin or anyone else has access to health care. (If it were about that, the legislative focus could have been limited to setting up what Herrin actually turned out to need: a high-risk pool for people who develop conditions while uninsured.)
And everything in this episode was caused by authoritarian busybodies, people with what we have to call a fascist mentality about coercing their neighbors into collectivist schemes. Nothing developed through happenstance or “market” forces. Herrin’s problems were created by government mandates.
The day is past when the busybodies can pretend that they have the good of others in mind. It’s glaringly obvious that they don’t.