This is written for the benefit of those lurkers out there who scoff at the mere notion of older Democrats and the Progressive Left using their pet projects/legislation to keep Americans in a particular economic bracket, unable to get ahead.
I’m an average wage earner, what some might call “lower middle class”. I take great pride in being able to provide for myself and pay my own way. Or at least I did until I lost the job that provided employer-sponsored health insurance (not healthcare) at a greatly discounted rate. When that job ended in 2014, I found myself in my middle 50s without any health insurance at all and unable to afford what was out there. Fortunately for me, I’m pretty healthy, rarely go to the doctor except for a couple of medication prescriptions. Still, it’s pretty scary to be without the coverage one needs when something unforeseen and very expensive comes along.
I started a new job in 2015 in a single-physician practice,which now consists of one doctor, one PA, one APRN, one LPN, one Medical Assistant, one Receptionist, and one Transcriptionist – me. While I am an employee, until recently I’ve been paid by the line (very important for the rest of the story). I coasted along for a few years without any insurance at all. In 2017, I was lamenting the lack of affordable insurance and a co-worker suggested I take a look at Marketplace insurance plans. I resisted as long as I could, but finally looked to see what was available. Here’s how it worked out:
I enrolled the first time for coverage year 2018 in a bronze plan. My premium was $7.49. It turned out, I managed to earn a little more than I stated I would when I enrolled and I had to pay back $600 of the subsidy on my 2018 taxes. No problem.
Now it’s time to enroll for 2019. Remember I mentioned I was paid by the line? I never had any idea how much my check would be from one pay period to another. It all depended on how busy we were. Keep that in mind. So, when enrolling for the coming 2019 coverage year, I added about $3000 to my projected income just to be on the “safe” side. Even if I had to pay some of the subsidy back, I did not think it would be too much more than the $600 I’d paid back for 2018. For coverage year 2019, my premium was $0.00. If I remember correctly, the choices were either a $0.00 premium Silver plan or premiums that started in the nearly $400 range for both Bronze and Silver plans, which I could not afford. I found this very strange, but went with the $0.00 premium plan.
As 2019 turned into 2020, well, we all know what happened…The Virus. As the months passed, tax day was looming and our lovely government decided we had until July 15th to turn in our taxes. Never being one to want to give the government any money until I’m forced to, I put off doing my taxes until the very last minute. Can you guess where this is going? I bet you can. Yes indeed, I sat down to use TurboTax to do my taxes the evening of July 14th. Imagine my shock and dismay to find that I had earned more than 400% of the poverty level by just a mere $800. WHAM! I found myself owing the IRS $11,000+ (thank you, John Roberts). Not only that, but I somehow was pushed into some crazy tax bracket of 44% and I owed an additional estimated quarterly tax for 2020 of over $10,000 due at the time of filing, with an additional $15,000 due later this year, plus I think there were some penalties in there somewhere. WHAT??? I had not even earned $50,000 gross! Where the heck was this estimated tax payment requirement coming from? Needless to say, I freaked out.
Now, before you start to think I’m complaining about having to repay the subsidy of $11,000+, I’m not. Well, I am of course, but my point is that I take full responsibility for having to do that. If I had checked, as I should have, I might have been alerted to what was going to happen unless I did something about it. What could I have done? It’s simple, I could have asked my employer to cut my pay enough to keep me from going over that 400% of the poverty line. That’s right. My only recourse would have been to ASK FOR A CUT IN PAY. Who does that? Who HAS to do that? And that, ladies and gentleman, is how they keep you from getting ahead or even just keeping your head above water. They prevent you from being able to earn more than X amount of dollars lest you end up being penalized for taking advantage of what they had offered.
So here we are at the end of September 2020 and I’ve had to sit down with my employer to figure out exactly how much I can earn so this doesn’t happen again. Back in the spring, he’d gotten one of the PPP loans, so I was basically on salary during that time and found that it took a lot of stress off, especially since we were not very busy and my pay had fallen off quite a bit (a hazard of being paid by the line). I asked if we could just leave me on salary and he agreed (being the good guy that he is, he based it on my earnings from 2019 rather than 2020). Fortunately, I will be well below the dollar amount needed to avoid the scourge of the subsidy payback for 2020, although I may have to forgo any kind of bonus this year so I won’t earn too much. I had taken my taxes last minute to the tax accountants my family uses, they filed an extension for me on July 15th, and as of this past Monday, I should not have to worry about the estimated tax portion. Good thing too, ‘cos I don’t know where that money would have come from. I’d have probably had to sell my house. As for the $11,000+, my Bro-in-law did not want me to have to owe the IRS, so he is making me a loan. I hate that, but there it is. I am blessed he is such a generous man. That’s why he’s known as the FC (favorite child). 😊
Will I have to purchase Marketplace insurance again? Probably, unless I can find something else I can afford. I just turned 60, so I think it would be foolish to go without. It’s my hope that when President Trump is reelected, he will find a way to ensure we can all purchase health insurance across state lines, just like our car and home insurance, thus making it more affordable.
In closing, let me be a lesson to those who don’t understand that elections do have consequences and that those consequences just might jump up and bite you on the arse.
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