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Many people who buy health insurance on the Affordable Care Act exchanges have seen the prices go up. In Pennsylvania, rates went up 30 percent on average for 2017. Now, most people who use the exchanges qualify for government subsidies. But for those who don't, the increases can take a large bite out of their budgets. Ben Allen of member station WITF spoke with one Pennsylvania family that hopes President-elect Donald Trump's promise to repeal Obamacare will save them money.
BEN ALLEN, BYLINE: Abra and Matt Schultz recently built a house in Pottsville. It's a typical middle-class neighborhood in rural Schuylkill County. And Matt works as a carpenter foreman for a construction company. They're right in Trump's wheelhouse, Republicans in a Republican county.
ABRA SCHULTZ: Don't touch my paperwork. Don't even try to touch it.
ALLEN: There's a thick notebook in front of Abra in her kitchen, a file folder with health-insurance options and notes as high as a stack of pancakes.
SCHULTZ: I get so stressed out about it. Like, I literally - I'll not pick one until the very last minute that I have - like, that deadline day...
ALLEN: Abra's husband, Matt, makes good money. But he usually gets laid off in the winter when construction slows down. He and his wife buy insurance on the Affordable Care Act exchange. But they're in a really tough spot. They make too much money to get a subsidy to help them pay for coverage but not enough to easily afford paying full price. They bought insurance for 2015 on healthcare.gov and paid $530 a month for a plan they liked. It went up some in 2016. But the options for this year...
SCHULTZ: So, basically, we have - let's see - one for $881, one for $938, one for $984 with - like, deductibles are, like - look at it. Like, these are insane.
ALLEN: That's just for her and her husband, who, she points out, are relatively healthy and usually need very little medical care.
SCHULTZ: The one that we would be stuck with would be the silver. This is $881.50, and our deductible would be $7,000.
ALLEN: Add the cost of a separate insurance plan for their two kids, and they're expecting to pay about $14,000 in health-care premiums this year. That added up to a vote for Trump.
SCHULTZ: His plan is to work with the insurance companies to hopefully, you know, get it down where it should be.
ALLEN: What Trump said about Obamacare on campaign stops, like one in King of Prussia, resonated with her.
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DONALD TRUMP: Obamacare has to be replaced. And we will do it. And we will do it very, very quickly. It is a catastrophe.
ALLEN: Schultz says, so what if she's in limbo while Republicans try to deliver on their repeal-and-replace plan? Larry Levitt with the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation understands her frustration.
LARRY LEVITT: These are people who are playing by the rules and doing the right thing. And they feel like they're getting the shaft.
ALLEN: But, he says, there's a tradeoff.
LEVITT: Before the ACA, to get insurance on your own, you had to fill out a medical questionnaire. And an insurer would only take you if you were reasonably healthy.
ALLEN: And inexpensive plans often didn't offer many benefits. Levitt says any replacement lawmakers consider will have its own upsides and downsides.
LEVITT: If this were easy, it already would've happened.
ALLEN: Abra Schultz says she understands the larger picture. But she's counting on Trump to make it more affordable for her family.
SCHULTZ: He just wants to fix what needs to be fixed, which I think is wonderful news.
ALLEN: Schultz settled on a plan that costs $938 a month. But it's a real strain on her family's budget. So, she says, if lawmakers drop the penalty for people who don't get covered, she might take a risk and drop the insurance. For NPR News, I'm Ben Allen in Harrisburg.
CORNISH: This story is part of a reporting partnership with NPR, WITF and Kaiser Health News.
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