Seated across the table from me at Cafe Patachou were Drs. Tim Brown and Larry Bucshon.
Dr. Bucshon was a heart surgeon from Newburgh. Dr. Brown is an emergency room physician from Crawfordsville. What made this breakfast meeting extraordinary is that Brown is the powerful Republican chairman of the Indiana House Ways & Means Committee, which plays a huge role in developing $30 billion biennial budgets. Bucshon is the Republican congressman from Southwestern Indiana.
The two were embarking on a statewide “listening tour.” In more than three decades of covering Indiana politics, I cannot remember a legislator and member of Congress doing anything like this. And it couldn’t come at a better time.
The Affordable Care Act – or “Obamacare” – had just passed its first signup deadline. The Kaiser Family Foundation reported that 145,189 Hoosiers were eligible for coverage, 93,720 eligible for subsidies, 65,846 eligible for Medicaid, and 64,971 (through March 1) had selected a plan through the federal health exchange.
I had a personal bone to pick with these lawmakers. My 24-year-old son signed up for a plan that will cost him about $100 a month. Good for him. A middle-aged friend of mine qualified for a subsidy for his family of four and will be paying about $6 a month. That is not a typo: $6. Me? I’m a non-smoking 58-year-old self-employed single guy who has had a vasectomy. I earn too much for a subsidy. My previous plan cost me $350 a month. It went up to $444 last fall. And when the plan lapsed, I ended up on the federal Healthcare.gov website. An employee stayed on the phone with me as I went to the federal exchange (which worked flawlessly).
My total monthly cost: $718 a month.
I had shopped around prior and a broker from Mishawaka had warned me of “sticker shock.” Why, I asked, did the cost of my options go up so much? “Because you’re paying for maternity and pediatric benefits,” she told me.