Obamacare’s Biggest Winners

Kevin Quealey and Margot Sanger-Katz identify them. The law has most helped “people between the ages of 18 and 34; blacks; Hispanics; and people who live in rural areas”:

Each of these trends is going in the opposite direction of larger economic patterns. Young people have fared substantially worse in the job market than older people in recent years. Blacks and Hispanics have fared worse than whites and Asians. Rural areas have fallen further behind larger metropolitan areas. Women are the one modest exception. They have benefited more from Obamacare than men, and they have received larger raises in recent years. But of course women still make considerably less money than men, so an economic benefit for women still pushes against inequality in many ways.

Meanwhile, Suderman takes issue with the Democrats’ “keep it and fix it” campaign theme:

The problem for Democrats is that, despite their pledges to fix the law, they have offered little in the way of meaningful tweaks. As The Washington Examiner’s Byron York noted last week, when [Democratic Sen. Jeanne] Shaheen was asked in a debate about her ideas, she the only proposal she could name was a committee to study website problems. It was all but an admission that she had no fixes.

Somewhat more substantive is the proposal from Sens. Mark Warner (D-Va.) and Mark Begich (D-Alaska) to add a lower tier of less expensive plans to the system. The basic concept of expanding the range of available products on the exchanges is not without merit, but this version would come with problems. As Ramesh Ponnuru notes, it would create a less expensive insurance product focused on covering routine expenses—exactly the kind of insurance we should want to discourage. That low-cost option, meanwhile, would attract healthy people, and could destabilize existing coverage.

Ezra voxplains the Warner and Begich plan:

The Expanded Consumer Choice Act is a brief bill — less than 2,000 words in all. What it does is open Obamacare’s exchanges to a new kind of insurance product: a “copper plan,” that is both skimpier, and more affordable, than the plans being offered today. Obamacare names its insurance tiers after metals: there are the platinum plans, which cover 90 percent of an enrollee’s expected health costs; the gold plans, which cover 80 percent; the silver plans, which cover 70 percent; and the bronze plans, which cover — you guessed it — 60 percent.

Copper plans cover 50 percent of expected health costs (or, as the health wonks put it, they have an “actuarial value” of 50 percent). That means premiums are cheaper than the platinum, gold, bronze or silver plans — the consulting group Avalere Health estimates that copper plan premiums would be 18 percent lower than bronze plan premiums. But if you get sick, the deductibles and co-pays are much higher. Larry Levitt, a vice president at the Kaiser Family Foundation, says that the deductibles would have to be in the range of $9,000 — which would make them higher than the $6,350 out-of-pocket maximum that the law currently allows.