Four Americans and their brushes with Obamacare

Obamacare directly affects mainly those Americans who don't get health insurance through their jobs. So far, some are happy. Some are furious. Many are scratching their heads. Here are four real-life stories that show some of what's happening as health-care reform rolls out.

3. Stacie Clary of Capitola, Calif.

Courtesy of Stacie Clary
Stacie Clary of Capitola, Calif., pays $268 a month for high-deductible health insurance that covers her and her husband. She's been satisfied with it, but the insurer has served notice that she can't re-up with that plan under Obamacare. Clary has had sticker shock as she's looked at rates for new coverage that meets Obamacare standards.

Stacie Clary is a consultant for nonprofit groups and a career coach who lives in the small coastal city of Capitola, Calif., about an hour south of the San Francisco Bay. Her husband, Herb Walker, is a website developer. They’re both self-employed and have bought health insurance on the individual market for years.

Their current policy is a high-deductible plan from Anthem that costs $268 per month. It requires them to spend $10,000 to $12,000 out of their own pockets on health care before coverage kicks in. It also allows one annual preventive-care doctor visit apiece each year.

Ms. Clary says she and Mr. Walker have been happy with the plan, despite its limits.

“We knew that we were taking a risk that if one of us got very sick we would be paying a lot out of pocket,” she says. “But we’re both healthy and we wanted something so we wouldn’t go bankrupt” if either of them became seriously ill.

But Anthem has notified them their plan is being canceled at the end of the year, as it does not meet Affordable Care Act standards. So Clary has begun looking into the purchase of a new policy from Covered California, the state’s new ACA health insurance marketplace.

She can’t find anything comparable to what they have now, she says. Even the cheapest plans available on the exchange cost much more than their current plan. A Covered California navigator said the least-expensive “bronze” level insurance coverage in their area is priced at about $650 a month, according to Clary. A private insurance broker told her the same thing.

A search on, an unofficial website that allows Californians to comparison shop for Obamacare insurance, indicates that “bronze plans" in Capitola for a nonsmoking couple range from $525 to $550 a month.

“Bronze plans" are more extensive than the couple's current insurance, says Clary, but she and her husband can’t afford the extra $300 or $400 per month that they cost.

“We really don’t know what we’re going to do,” she says.

Their annual income is 450 percent of poverty, so they are just over the threshold of eligibility for federal subsidies to help buy insurance.

Ironically, Clary and Walker may be exempt from the Obamacare mandate that Americans purchase health coverage. The “bronze plans" available to them would cost more than 8 percent of their annual income. That means they qualify as a hardship case and would not have to pay a tax penalty if they chose to forego coverage for the first time in decades.

Their insurance outlook might be different if they lived in one of California’s major metropolitan areas, where there is more competition between health-care providers and between insurers eager to gain new customers from large urban populations.

For instance, in the posh Nob Hill section of San Francisco, the cheapest “bronze plan" for two adults costs $450 a month, about $100 less than in Capitola. And in the famous Beverly Hills ZIP Code of 90210, comparable coverage costs between $360 and $390, according to

On Nov. 14, President Obama changed course and said that health insurers could temporarily continue to offer health plans that don’t meet ACA standards. If Anthem decides to keep offering the plan Clary and Walker now have, at or near its current price, they’d “certainly keep it,” she says.

If the plan’s price rises to near that of Obamacare “bronze” polices, they might opt for the latter.

“We’re just waiting to see what Anthem does,” she says.

Clary says she supports health-care reform and is not motivated by political opposition to the Obama administration.

“I’m just tired of hearing how we’re not really being hurt, when we are,” she says.

– Peter Grier, staff writer

3 of 4

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.