Articles filed under Affordable Care Act

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  • States on edge about the future of health insurance markets Mar 5, 2015 4:04 PM
    Mixed signals from Supreme Court put states on edge about future of health insurance exchanges

  • Clarification: Health Overhaul-Republicans story Mar 4, 2015 2:04 PM
    Clarification: Health Overhaul-Republicans story

  • Justices sharply divided over health care law subsidies Mar 4, 2015 2:34 PM
    Can health care law survive major new challenge? Justices seem deeply divided in arguments

  • Excerpts from health care case argued at the Supreme Court Mar 4, 2015 4:04 PM
    Excerpts from the Supreme Court argument about subsidies in the health care law

  • High-stakes clash at high court over health law subsidies Mar 3, 2015 2:34 PM
    Supreme Court takes up high-stakes battle over health law subsidies, bathed in politics

  • For Many Middle-Class Taxpayers On Obamacare, It’s Payback Time Feb 26, 2015 5:04 AM
    Roberta and Curtis Campbell typically look forward to tax time. Most years, they receive a refund – a little extra cash to pay off credit card bills. But this year the California couple got a shock: According to their tax preparer, they owe the IRS more than $6,000. That’s the money the Campbells received from the federal government last year to make their Obamacare health coverage more affordable. Roberta, unemployed when she signed up for the plan, got a job halfway through the year and Curtis found full-time work. The couple’s total yearly income became too high to qualify for federal subsidies. Now they have to pay all the money all back. “Oh my goodness, this is just not right,” said Roberta Campbell, who lives in the Sacramento suburb of Roseville. “This is supposed to be a safety net health care and I am getting burned left and right by having used it.” As tax day approaches, hundreds of thousands of families who enrolled in plans through the insurance marketplaces could be stuck with unexpected tax bills, according to researchers. Those payments could be as high as $11,000, although most would be several hundred dollars, one study found. The result is frustration and confusion among some working and middle-class taxpayers, whom the Affordable Care Act was specifically intended to help. The repayment obligations could dissuade people from re-enrolling and provide more fuel to Republicans’ continuing push for a repeal of the law. The problem is that many consumers didn’t realize that the subsidies were based on their total year-end income and couldn’t reliably project what would happen over the course of the year, said Alyene Senger, research associate at The Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank. “How do you know if you are going to get that promotion?” she said. “How do you know what your Christmas bonus is going to be?” In addition, Senger said the government didn’t go out of its way to publicize the tax consequences of receiving too much in federal subsidies. “It isn’t really something the administration focused on heavily,” she said. “It’s not exactly popular.” The system was intended to ensure that people received the right amount in subsidies, no more or less than needed. But the means the government chose to reconcile the numbers was the tax system - notorious for its complexity well before the Affordable Care Act passed. Enrollees who enrolled in Obamacare now are realizing that certain positive life changes – a pay raise, a marriage, a spouse’s new job – can turn out to be a liability at tax time. “We are definitely seeing some pain,” said Jackie Perlman, a principal tax research analyst at H&R Block. H&R Block released a report Tuesday saying that 52 percent of customers who received health coverage through the insurance marketplaces last year underestimated their income and now owe the government. They estimate that the average subsidy repayment amount is $530. At the same time, about a third of those enrolled in marketplace coverage overestimated their income and are receiving money back – about $365 on average, the report said. Under the Affordable Care Act, the federal government made subsidies available to people who earned up to 400 percent of the federal poverty level - about $47,000 for an individual and $63,000 for a couple. For families who ended up making less than that, the federal government limits any repayments that might be due: The poorest consumers will have to repay no more than $300 and most others no more than $2,500. But the Campbells’ income last year exceeded the limit to receive federal help, so they have pay back the whole amount. Roberta Campbell said she was only trying to do the right thing. Campbell, now 59, lost her job as a program director for the Arthritis Foundation in late 2012. She and her husband, who was working part-time as a merchandiser, downsized and moved into a smaller house. They were left uninsured but were mindful of the federal mandate to be covered as of January 2014. So they signed up for a plan through California’s insurance marketplace, Covered California. The plan cost about $1,400 a month, but they were able to qualify for a monthly subsidy of about $1,000. “We are rule followers,” she said. “We decided to get insurance because we were supposed to get insurance.” They barely used the coverage. Roberta and Curtis each went to the doctor once for a check-up. Then, about halfway through the year, Roberta got a job at UC Davis and became insured through the university. Curtis, who had been working part-time, got a full-time job for a magazine distribution company. They notified Covered California, which Campbell said cancelled the insurance after 30 days. But with the new salaries, his pension from a previous career and a brief period of unemployment compensation, the couple’s year-end income totaled about $85,000, making them ineligible for any subsidies. Their tax preparer told them they would have been better off not getting insurance at all and just paying the fine for being uninsured. In that case, the Campbells say their financial obligation would have been much smaller – about $850. “The ironic thing is that we tried to pull ourselves up by our bootstraps,” Curtis Campbell said. “Now they are going to penalize us. It’s frustrating.” It’s not surprising that the projections people made about their income in 2014 in many cases were incorrect, said Gerald Kominski, director of the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research. The first open enrollment period started in October 2013, meaning that some enrollees based their estimates on what they earned in 2012. Kominski said that policy experts knew there would be significant “churn” of people whose incomes change throughout the year and who would gain or lose their eligibility for subsidized coverage. But he and others said there was less understanding among consumers about how that could affect their taxes. With tax season still underway, it not entirely clear how many people will have to repay the government for excess subsidies. But along with the recent H & R block estimates based on the firm’s customers, a UC Berkeley Labor Center study published in Health Affairs in 2013 suggested the numbers would not be not small. Nationwide, 6.7 million people enrolled in marketplace exchanges through Obamacare in the first year. About 85 percent of people got federal help paying their insurance premiums. Using California as a model, labor center chair Ken Jacobs estimated that even if everyone reported income changes to the insurance marketplace during the year, nearly 23 percent of consumers who were eligible for subsidies would have to pay the government back at least some of the amount received. About 9 percent of those receiving subsidies would have to pay the full amount. If no one reported changes, 38 percent would owe money. The median repayment – if people reported income changes along the way - would be about $243 but some couples could owe more than $11,000, according to the research. The median amount due if people didn’t report the changes during the year would be $750. “The most important thing for people to do along the way is to report [income] changes so the subsidy amount is adjusted,” Jacobs said. For those who must repay money, the IRS will allow payment in installments, even after the April 15 tax deadline. Interest will continue accruing, however, until the balance is paid. Covered California spokesman Dana Howard said he understands paying back excess subsidies puts some in a difficult spot. But he said consumers who think their circumstances might change can decline the money or just take part of it. Howard also said the subsidies were designed to give the working class and middle class folks a leg up in affording health coverage. So when people get good jobs, he said, they don’t necessarily need the federal help to get insurance. “When you get that really good fortune, that has to be shared back,” Howard said. “That is just how the ACA law was written.” Kaiser Health News (KHN) is a national health policy news service. It is an editorially independent program of the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation.

  • If Supreme Court says no, they'd lose health insurance help Feb 26, 2015 1:04 PM
    If Supreme Court says no: Healthy or sick, insured say they'd miss health law subsidies

  • GOP claims paper shows fed aides' preps for health law loss Feb 26, 2015 2:03 PM
    Republican claims document shows administration preparations for health care law defeat

  • Administration: No quick fix if court kills health subsidies Feb 24, 2015 5:34 PM
    Health secretary sees no administrative fix if Supreme Court kills health law subsidies

  • Treasury issues reprieve for health law tax errors Feb 24, 2015 5:34 PM
    Treasury says taxpayers won't have to refile returns affected by health law errors

  • Meaning of 4 words at center of high court health law fight Feb 23, 2015 1:04 PM
    Supreme Court fight over health insurance subsidies focused on meaning of 4 words

  • Millions at risk of losing health coverage in Supreme Court case Feb 22, 2015 7:42 AM
    Erin Meredith, a fifth-generation Republican who lives in Austin, Texas, was no fan of President Obama’s Affordable Care Act, which she considered just another wasteful government handout. She didn’t sign up for a health plan until late last year, when she felt she had no other choice. Meredith is one of about 6 million people whose subsidized insurance hangs in the balance as the Supreme Court takes up a case that poses the most serious challenge to the Affordable Care Act since the court found the law constitutional more than two years ago.

  • New woes for Wrong tax info sent out Feb 21, 2015 2:33 AM
    New woes for Tax filing delays after wrong info sent to nearly 1 million

  • Tax Time Reprieve For Obamacare Procrastinators Feb 20, 2015 11:04 AM
    The Obama administration said Friday it will allow a special health law enrollment period from March 15 to April 30 for consumers who realize while filling out their taxes that they owe a fee for not signing up for coverage last year. The special enrollment period applies to people in the 37 states covered by the federal marketplace, though some state-run exchanges are also expected to follow suit. People will have to attest that they first became aware of the tax penalty for lack of coverage when they filled out their taxes. They will still have to pay the fine, which for last year was $95 or 1 percent of their income, whichever was greater. This year, the penalty for not having insurance coverage is $325 per person or 2 percent of household income, whichever is greater. By signing up during the special enrollment period for 2015 they can avoid paying most of the tax penalty for this year. The Affordable Care Act requires most Americans to have health insurance or pay a financial penalty. But some people may not realize they face a penalty for not having coverage until they file their tax returns ahead of the April 15 tax deadline. The administration also said Friday it sent out the wrong information to 800,000 people to help them calculate whether they received too much of a subsidy for health coverage last year or too little. Those affected are being notified today by email or telephone – and are being asked to wait to file their taxes until after new 1095-A forms are sent in early March. For the 5 percent of those affected who have already filed returns for 2014, more instructions are to come from the Treasury Department, officials said. The 800,000 represents about 20 percent of the total number of people who were sent 1095-A tax forms. Officials declined to say how the mistake occurred. The administration would not estimate how many people it expects to take advantage of the new enrollment period. Millions of Americans who did not enroll in a plan are exempt from the requirement to buy coverage because their income is too little or they qualify for other exemptions. Officials said this special enrollment would be just for this year to account for people who did not hear or heed messages about the individual insurance mandate that was included in the health law approved by Congress in 2010. So far, 11.4 million Americans have enrolled in private health insurance through Obamacare during the open enrollment period that ended on Sunday. Separately, administration officials have said they will allow people who had trouble completing their enrollment by Feb. 15 to finish by Sunday Feb. 22. Officials estimated it would help fewer than 150,000 people. Julie Appleby contributed to this story. Kaiser Health News (KHN) is a national health policy news service. It is an editorially independent program of the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation.

  • New woes for Wrong tax info sent out Feb 20, 2015 4:34 PM
    New woes for Tax filing delays after wrong info sent to nearly 1 million

  • Florida has highest number of enrollees under health law Feb 18, 2015 6:03 PM
    Florida eclipses California with more consumers buying insurance on health-law marketplaces

  • White House: Health law sign-ups top 11M Feb 17, 2015 6:34 PM
    White House: Health law sign-ups estimated to top 11M as enrollment season winds down

  • Flurry of sign-ups at health law deadline; web glitch fixed Feb 15, 2015 4:03 PM
    Deadline day brings push for health law enrollment after technical glitch on website fixed

  • Snag affecting health law sign-ups gets a fix Feb 14, 2015 8:04 PM
    Frustration as health law sign-ups hit technical snag ahead of Sunday deadline

  • Correction: Health Overhaul-Penalties story Feb 17, 2015 5:01 PM
    Correction: Health Overhaul-Penalties story

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