Obamacare forces many to pay more for things they don't need

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Beginning Jan. 1, new plans must cover pediatric care, prescription drugs, mental-health services and maternity care.

In general, policies that don’t offer those can’t be sold after 2013.

Critics, such as Obama, say that discontinued policies are too skimpy, but consumers contend the plans met their needs.

David Prestin, 48, who operates a gas station and diner at a truck stop in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, was unhappy to learn recently that his premiums are slated to rise from $923 to $1,283 next year under Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan.

The insurer said it needed to add maternity care to comply with the Affordable Care Act.

The issue of maternity coverage is a sensitive one for Prestin and his wife, Kathie. They had one child seven years ago, but after she had five miscarriages, they discovered she had an immune issue that prevented her from successfully completing a pregnancy.

At the same time, Prestin said, the new plan would reduce coverage for things he and Kathie need, such as free annual checkups.

The Prestins are not eligible for subsidies, but they found a cheaper plan.

However, there was another problem: It would have required the couple to switch from the doctors they have seen for more than 16 years and travel more than 100 miles from their home to Green Bay, Wis.

“I pay my taxes. I’m assistant chief of the volunteer fire department and a first responder,” Prestin said. “You try to be personally accountable and play by the rules, but the more you play by the rules, the more you get beat up on.”

Robert Laszewski, an industry consultant, said he thinks the rise in rates was inevitable. The new law, he said, has resulted in an estimated 30 to 50 percent increase in baseline costs for insurers.

“We’ve got increased access for sick people and an increase in the span of benefits, so something’s got to give,” he said.