Washington Post features Americans opting out of Obamacare

Nearly two and a half months ago, I posted here that a reporter had contacted me and was looking for people to interview who had chosen to opt out of Obamacare. Several dozen of you responded, and I was able to pass along your information for her to include in her article.

The article finally ran last week in the Washington Post  (her editor had bumped it until after the end of Obamacare’s open-enrollment period, hence why it’s only now coming out), and I’m pleased to say I think the reporter did a good and fair job explaining what some Americans are doing.

The article focuses mostly on health care sharing ministries, and doesn’t really address some of the other coverage options, such as critical illness policies. It also neglects the actual provider community that caters to self-pay patients, such cash-only doctors, telemedicine companies like Connect2Docs* and 24/7DocRx*, medical tourism, and the many other options that self-pay patients have.

That’s not the reporter’s fault, of course – had she tried to cover all of this, she would have wound up writing a book, not a news article (and fortunately, someone has already written a book on how to save money in health care as a self-pay patient!). Here’s the first few paragraphs of the article:

Susan Tucker is one of millions of Americans who dislike the health law and want nothing to do with it. But the 54-year-old Venice, Fla., homemaker took her opposition a step further: She opted out.

Tucker dropped the private health plan she had carried for more than a decade and joined Christian Healthcare Ministries, a faith-based nonprofit in which members pool their money to pay for one another’s medical needs — and promise to adhere to biblical values, such as attending church and abstaining from sex outside marriage.

“When all this came up with the ACA, I just realized I don’t want to be a part of any of this,” said Tucker, who views the Affordable Care Act as the government meddling in her personal health care. The Christian Healthcare program is not as comprehensive as insurance — she has to pay for her preventive care, for example — but the monthly payment of $150 can’t be beat, she said.

Tucker is part of a small but growing group of Americans whose opposition to the Affordable Care Act is spurring them to seek out alternatives, choosing once-fringe methods to pay for their medical care in an effort to skirt the many requirements the law imposes on the private health insurance market.

In addition to the focus on health care sharing ministries, the article briefly touches on direct primary care practices, critical illness policies, and short-term health insurance.

The article quotes several other people on the benefits and potential downside of these alternatives, including myself and two professors, Timothy Jost of Washington & Lee University’s law school and Sabrina Corlette with Georgetown University’s Center on Health Insurance Reforms. Both Jost and Corlette are generally skeptical of these options (I’ve read their work before, suffice it to say they’re both pretty smart but have trouble seeing value in anything aside from the conventional system of bureaucratic medicine).

More interesting than the article itself might be the comments, most of which are uniformly hostile to the idea of people charting a path independent of Obamacare and bureaucratic medicine. I and a few others have offered our own comments to try to rebut the misunderstanding, misinformation, and ignorance on display, or clarify certain points – hopefully anybody reading through will get a better sense of these alternatives. If you feel like it, go ahead and leave a comment yourself on your experience as a self-pay patient!

In the next week I plan to provide several stories of individuals who have opted out of Obamacare and bureaucratic medicine, choosing instead to join a ministry, buy an alternative type of insurance, join a direct care practice, or otherwise become a self-pay patient. If you have a story you’d like to share, please let me know!

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