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Thanks to all of you for the great discussion and useful information in the comments! I tried using the ValuePenguin site (h/t to sotiredofusernames) and it was really easy to do a quick calculation and get plan comparisons. I was stumped, though, by the need for a "Modified adjusted gross income." See update below for more. And now back to the original diary:

Went in for a haircut today, and after my sweet hairdresser started on the clip job, she brought up Obamacare ... genuinely seeking information, I believe. Let me state here that, as I told her, I'm on Medicare so the ACA doesn't directly affect me. But I have followed it avidly, here on DKos as well as on Facebook & Twitter, so I fortunately was able to set her straight on a few things.

The conversation that ensued is related below the squiggle:

First, I asked her if she had looked at the website and tried to sign up yet. She said no, but she would have to because her insurance is one of those being canceled. She's self-employed, single, over 50, doesn't smoke. And we're in NM, one of the states that has its own exchange, so the state website should be in good shape.

I explained that the plans being canceled are those that don't meet the requirements of the new law, the really expensive plans that "don't cover shit." My words. "Tell me about it!" she said. Her plan is costing her over $350/month and she has about $30-50 copays just to see a doctor. I said that most of the plans on the exchange are going to cost less and cover more, with lower copays, no lifetime caps, no pre-existing conditions, no getting kicked off when you get sick.

She did say that she'd been getting her information from Fox News (yikes! but I don't believe she's totally brainwashed; she was looking to me for information because she know I follow the news). I told her to forget that; Fox News is not reliable.

I explained that she could go to the Healthcare.gov website to look at the plans but she didn't have to enroll that way. She could call an 800 number and the nice people there would enroll her. She was relieved to know she could talk to someone on the phone.

Then came the real turning point in the conversation. She haltingly asked, "But isn't this something where we all have to go .. under one ... government?"

Ah ha, the spectre of socialized medicine rears its head!

No, I answered, it's all being done by individual insurance companies. It's just that now, for the first time, they are being held to standards that actually help people. She nodded.

I went on, "It's just like you have to follow certain standards to keep your license so you can work as a beautician."

That she understood. The subtle message was, she has to follow standards to do her job - why shouldn't the insurance companies have to do the same thing.

We talked about a few more details and I let her know that if she had trouble finding the 800 number, I would get it for her. And then we went on to other things.

In all, I think it was a positive conversation and I really have to thank the many who've posted about their ACA experience here, because that's where I got most of the information that helped her. And now I get to write an ACA diary, too - even though I can't sign up for it :)

Actually the ACA is helping us Medicare folk, too. I've had Medicare for a year, and I didn't get an Advantage plan because I couldn't justify the additional expense. This year I'm seeing more Advantage plans with $0 premium (nothing above the basic Medicare cost) and covering preventive dental care at $10 copay. That I could use. So I'll probably look into it.

The thing that will really help self-employed people like my hairdresser, and me, is the way people are saving on the cost of premiums and out of pocket expenses. I predict by next summer, after the adjustments are made and people realize they have more disposable income, that there will be a whole lot more money sloshing around in the economy. And some of it will slosh into purchases from the many small businesses that have been on a starvation diet since the recession hit in 2008.

It's going to be exciting. I can't wait - It's a Big. Fucking. Deal! (thanks to VP Biden for the timeless quote!)

8:28 PM PT: Rec list already??? What a nice surprise! Thanks all, not for me but for helping get the word out! :)

Sat Nov 02, 2013 at 10:16 AM PT: Last night I went to some of the alternate sites suggested in the comments (the value penguin site) and ran a quick hypothetical calculation based on what my hairdresser told me. I had to guess at her exact age and income so I probably overestimated, but it looks like she could get a decent Silver exchange plan for about a third of what she's paying now. Again, this was real quick as it was late.

Question: the calculator asks for "modified adjust gross income." What is this? I know where to find adjust gross income on your 1040 tax form, but what's the Modified AGI? Does anyone know?


Originally posted to jan4insight on Fri Nov 01, 2013 at 07:53 PM PDT.

Also republished by Bending the Buzz.

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