East Texas middle class workers scratching heads after health insurance premiums go up

LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) - The deadline to sign up for the Affordable Care Act is December 15 and several East Texans say they are starting to grip a little bit tighter on their pocketbooks as health insurance premiums begin to skyrocket.

But that's not all that is rising as tempers flare in the war against the so-called Obamacare.

"If you get out and work and try to make something than they're going to choke you to death with taxes and insurance and anything else they can pile on you," Kirk Johnson said.

And for some folks they have had enough.

"My wife got a paycheck and she noticed that its $210 less than what it normally was so she called over to the payroll department and they told her yes indeed that the insurance had increased our health coverage by $210 a month," Tim Brookshire said.

But Brookshire isn't the only one facing rising health insurance premiums. Johnson, who owns RJT Equipment Sales & Rentals, has taken out his frustrations with visual art with his sign reading "Obama A Jihadist Plans to Kill USA."

"For me and my wife it's $1,500 or something a month. It's all us working people can stand you know it's just…y'all call it Obamacare and I call it Obama don't care," Johnson said.

The Affordable Care Act was created to lower health costs and helps those like the poor get the health coverage they need. In January 2014, individuals under 65 years of age with income below 133 percent of the federal poverty level are eligible for Medicaid, the law states.

Yet, if we continue to see a slow decline in younger people enrolling in the marketplaces, premiums will continue to increase for those with pre-existing health insurance plans.

The idea is that in 2014, everyone except a select few will have to have insurance either through a pre-existing plan or the Affordable Care Act. Those who do not have insurance will have to pay a tax penalty, which is $95 an adult for the year of 2014.

According to the Affordable Care Act, those who are exempt are those whose income is so low that you don't have to file a tax return. For 2013, that is $10,000 for an individual or $20,000 for a couple. You're also exempt if you are a member of a federally recognized American Indian tribe, or an undocumented immigrant. Also, those who religious beliefs reject health insurance are also exempt from the tax penalty.

Also, those that are uninsured by health insurance for three months or less, such as those who are in between jobs, won't have to pay a penalty in 2014.

But the already rising premiums is making particularly, hard-working middle class workers scratch their heads.

"It does make it harder on us. That is $2,400 a year coming out of our pocket that wasn't coming out before. And think about this…we're paying an extra $2,400 a year in insurance premiums with the deductible that is twice as high as it used to be," Brookshire said.

And for a family of four with no major health issues…it's a lot of money.

The act states that by December 15, 2013 everyone will need to enroll for insurance on the exchange and pay the first premium in order for the health coverage to go into effect on January 1, 2014. That is when all insurance coverage from plans sold on the exchanges will begin.

The next time people can sign up for the health insurance is February 14, 2014 so that the health coverage will kick in by March 31, 2014, otherwise adults will face a $95 tax penalty.

March 31, 2014 is the last day for open enrollment on the exchanges. Anyone who tries to enroll in the health insurance after this date will only be able to if there is a qualifying life event, such as losing your job, having a baby or getting divorced.

By January 1, 2016 those who have still not enrolled in insurance plans will be fined $695, or 2.5 percent of their income, whichever is highest.

For more information on how you qualify for the Affordable Care Act or how the Affordable Care Act will affect existing health insurance plans, visit healthcare.gov.

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