New figures from the Obama administration show more than 6500 Alaskans have enrolled in insurance plans on The deadline to sign up is March 31st. And that has prompted many Alaskans to bite the bullet and figure out what the Affordable Care Act means for them. For some commercial fishermen and others who are self-employed, what they’ve found has been a pleasant surprise.


Back in 2012, when the Supreme Court upheld most of President Obama’s signature healthcare law, Wendy Alderson hoped the ruling would mean good things for her family.


“I know what I would hope that it would do for us, and I hope that it would basically just bring down the cost of our health insurance,” Alderson said, in an interview with KCAW in June 2012, right after the Supreme Court decision cleared the way for the Affordable Care Act to go into effect.


Alderson and her husband are commercial fishermen. They own their own boat, a combination freezer troller and longliner. And for the past decade, they have bought a very basic health insurance plan. They paid over $12,000 a year to cover themselves and their daughter. The plan had a deductible of about $2,500 per individual – meaning that’s how much they’d have to pay before the insurance kicked in.


“You know sometimes I felt like I couldn’t afford to go to the doctor because I had to pay my health insurance bills,” Alderson said.


The insurance only covered major events, like hospitalization — not preventive care or routine doctor’s appointments. In her 2012 interview, Alderson said that could be frustrating.


“It’s wondering whether you should go to the doctor or not,” she said. “It’s knowing that it’s $200 to walk into a doctor’s office, and you may or may not have a prescription that’s going to be $45 to $50.”


“You know, it’s kind of scary having a sick kid, and thinking, OK, are you sick enough to go to the doctor? Is your earache going to be gone in the morning?”


So now that the Affordable Care Act is actually going into effect, we checked in with Alderson to see if it was living up to her expectations.


And at first, Alderson actually didn’t think the act would do much for her family. In fact, she wouldn’t even have looked for a new plan, but her current insurance costs suddenly increased, from about $1100 a month to $1400 a month. All told, her family would be paying $15,000 a year just for catastrophic insurance.


“I decided I better get on the stick and look at what was available,” Alderson said.


So she logged into, the new online health insurance exchange. And…


“I was astounded,” she said.


Her new plan will cost about half as much as her old one.


“Honestly, [it was] a too-good-to-be-true thing for me,” Alderson said. “It was like, wow, really?”


The new plan is actually quite similar to her old plan, but instead of paying $1400 per month, she’ll pay just $680. In total, it will cost $7,000 this year, instead of $15,000.


Read the full story at Alaska Public Radio>>

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