Byron York

Finally, choose a higher income level, but one at which there are still a lot of people. For a family of four with an income of $85,000, the premium remains $8,088 but the subsidy shrinks to just $13 a year, meaning the family will pay, with its own money, $8,075 for coverage. So that family will technically receive help with its health care costs -- but not really.

For families above that level, and there are a lot of them, the subsidy will be $0. The bottom line is, when -- or if -- large numbers of people actually begin purchasing coverage on the Obamacare exchanges, many will find the much-touted subsidies aren't for them.

And that will be the key question of Obamacare: Will it help more people than it hurts, or will it hurt more people than it helps? If the answer is the former, Obamacare might become a permanent feature of American life. If the answer is the latter, it will be politically unsustainable and will fail.

The administration and its defenders might argue that the numbers will be a bit different, that some premiums could be lower or subsidies higher. But the basics are the same: Obamacare is all about subsidies, and "affordable" means the government is paying for all or part of it.

That is why the administration and its defenders are urging Democrats nervous about the disastrous Obamacare rollout to just wait for the subsidies to arrive. When that happens, they say, the Obamacare controversy will subside.

Whatever the case, the cost to taxpayers will be enormous. Obamacare limits the percentage of income that subsidy-receiving Americans have to spend on health coverage. Those at the top of the subsidy ladder are obligated to spend no more than 9.5 percent of their income on premiums. Those lower down pay a lower percentage -- for that family of four with $35,325 in annual income, it would be 4 percent.

So the "affordable" in Affordable Care Act doesn't really mean affordable at all.

Byron York

Byron York, chief political correspondent for The Washington Examiner