Ed Henry, White House correspondent for Fox News, must have thought he was being very clever today. Why not ask White House press secretary Jay Carney a simple question—if Obamacare’s so great, would you sign up for it?
Except as far as “gotcha” questions from hostile reporters go, this one is an incredible softball. Of course a 48-year-old man with a wife and two kids is going to prefer to have an insurance plan than to leave himself and his whole family uncovered. Assume the Carneys are affluent and have a household income of over $94,200 (i.e., 400 percent of the federal poverty level for a family of four) and thus aren’t eligible for any subsidies. According to a Kaiser Family Foundation (PDF) report, a “silver” insurance plan for the whole family in the District of Columbia would cost them $845 a month, or $10,140 a year. That’s a lot of money. But it’s clearly a price the hypothetical Carneys can afford. And if the kids get a broken bone on the playground or Mom gets diagnosed with cancer, they’re going be really glad they had it. Unlike a less affluent family, the uninsured version of the Carneys probably aren’t at risk of someone dying due to a lack of medically necessary care. Instead, they’re at risk of bankruptcy as in the case of major illness or accident the health care industry will take them for every penny they have.
But either way, signing up for the exchange should be a no-brainer. There really is a smallish class of people out there—primarily affluent single men in their late 20s and early 30s with no chronic ailments—for whom you could try to make the case that signing up is a bad financial move. But asking Carney this question simply serves to underscore that for most uninsured Americans the exchanges are a great deal.