Doubts country can ‘afford’ new law

The 63-year-old Xenia businessman has been a tax preparer since 1975. He’s approaching his own health care choices with the same precision with which he peruses his clients’ tax returns.

Randall will explore his options under the Affordable Care Act, but most likely, he will opt to remain uninsured, as he has been for the past dozen years. “I am an older person, so I will be eligible for Medicare in the next 18 months, so I am willing to pay the penalty for 2014,” Randall said. “That’s a lot cheaper than buying insurance.”

The penalty is $95 per adult or 1 percent of adjusted family income next year, but jumps to $695, or 2.5 percent of income, in 2016.

He does not have any children or dependents, so that makes it easier for him to risk being uninsured. Randall dropped his medical insurance around the year 2000, when his premium tripled, to $430 a month, roughly equivalent to his mortgage payment. “I’ve been fortunate that I haven’t had any major health issues,” he said.

He has promoted his good luck with a healthy lifestyle — eating right, walking, playing golf, making regular visits to the doctor. “I work at it,” he said. “I think that being uninsured keeps me healthier.”

If he were to suffer a catastrophic illness or accident, he believes he could find help from privately-funded foundations. “There have always been community resources to help people with medical bills,” he said.

As a tax professional, however, Randall said he will be profoundly affected: “All tax preparers are to become gatekeepers for this program. We must ask a series of questions of our clients about their health care, and if they do not have it I and my fellow preparers must figure the penalty for that client.”

That adds time to the computational process, so Randall is considering a $15 fee increase, for the first time in six years, to cover his time. “There’s a lot of information to absorb,” he said. “The employer part is very complex. The average employers can’t handle that on their own.”

Randall remains unconvinced that the Affordable Care Act will solve the nation’s health care woes. “I don’t think the country can afford it,” he said.

Like many Americans, however, he’s taking a wait-and-see attitude about how it will affect his own pocketbook. “If I could purchase a premium for $100 a month, or less, that would be a good deal,” he said.

It’s all about doing the math.