At one point Devor thought his wife might qualify for Medicaid. No such luck. Even though she cannot get a subsidy to help pay her premiums, he looked at what the Illinois exchange had to offer, hoping that maybe there was an affordable policy among the offerings. “There were a whole list of options, but they are all horrible,” he told me. The cheapest plans were $225 a month. “It’s ridiculous. I would pay some $2,000 a year in premiums plus a $6,000 deductible.” The $6,000 deductible is just not doable. “Who can afford to spend $6,000 a year before the insurance pays?” Even a policy with a $350 monthly price tag and a $4,000 deductible did not seem reasonable. He concluded this is catastrophic insurance not health insurance, he told me, and he looked no further.

The Devors know that high deductibles—and even ones not so high—along with other cost sharing can devastate a family’s finances. In 2003, the family declared medical bankruptcy when hospital and doctor bills reached $12,000 for a variety of medical services the family needed. They had to pay out-of-pocket for them. Devor’s insurance comes with a $500 deductible and coinsurance of 20 percent, which is low but still enough of a deterrent to put off going to the doctor. He has arthritis and psoriasis and can’t always afford to go to the doctor because the out-of-pocket expenses add up. He said he owes one specialist $373, and he “wants me to pay him before he will see me again.”

Devor told me a lot of people in the community where he lives buy into the idea that Obamacare is horrible, but not for the right reasons. The law, he believes, doesn’t go far enough because it’s so watered down and should have been universal and included everyone. People in Devor’s community, he says, repeat the talking points they hear on TV about a government take-over, and how the law is going to help freeloaders. “They don’t see the problem with the inequality in our health care system.” The glitch that has ensnared his family punctuates his point.

Follow @USProjectCJR for more posts from this author and the rest of the United States Project team.

Related content:

The Man in the Middle

The Great Cost Shift comes into focus

Warning: This anecdote may be harmful to your story’s health

If you'd like to help CJR and win a chance at one of 10 free print subscriptions, take a brief survey for us here.

 

Trudy Lieberman is a fellow at the Center for Advancing Health and a longtime contributing editor to the Columbia Journalism Review. She is the lead writer for The Second Opinion, CJR’s healthcare desk, which is part of our United States Project on the coverage of politics and policy. Follow her on Twitter @Trudy_Lieberman.