Middle-class earners weigh love and money to curb Obamacare premiums – Orange County Register

By Rachel Bluth, California Healthline

Anne Cornwell considered two drastic strategies in her quest to get affordable health insurance premiums last year for herself and her retired husband.

One was divorce. Another was taking a 30 percent pay cut. She chose the latter.

That maneuver slashed the Chattanooga, Tenn., couple’s premiums from exorbitant to economical. Instead of $2,100 a month — the amount she had been quoted for 2017 — their premiums are just $87 monthly, her lost income more than compensated for by qualifying for insurance subsides.

Cornwell’s solution — completely legal — reflects how a growing number of Americans are incorporating strategies for affording health insurance into financial planning, adapting money and salaries to yield better choices — much as people place money into 401(k) plans to save for retirement while reducing their tax.

Her solution and others like it may resonate with other Americans who are now buying 2018 health plans on the individual market, through the Affordable Care Act’s online marketplaces or outside them. Double-digit premium price hikes are forecast for many plans, a trend that has accelerated since President Donald Trump announced his administration would not pay some ACA subsidies to insurers.

Open enrollment in the 39 states using the federal marketplace started Nov. 1 and ends Dec. 15 for coverage that starts Jan. 1. Enrollment dates vary in other states.

The vast majority of enrollees in Obamacare plans will not pay the higher premiums, since modest incomes make them eligible for another type of government-paid subsidy that will hold their premiums flat or close to it.

But upper-middle-class people like Cornwell and her husband are expected to pay full price, feeling the blunt force of what experts and health economists agree are unbearable escalations.

Some people may qualify for ACA subsidies through less extreme measures than those taken by Cornwell, such as shifting money into tax-preferred savings account, such as a 401(k), and lowering their taxable incomes, said Frank Caccavale, an accountant from Staten Island, N.Y. But when that is not sufficient, he counsels clients to do what Cornwell did: “This is your only option. You have to take a pay decrease.”

Cornwell hit upon her solution on her own after a month of poring over spreadsheets.

“When I saw what the premium was going to be in 2017, I had to sit down. I was shocked,” Cornwell said of the $2,100-a-month…

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