Obamacare

The Affordable Care Act takes full effect on January 1, 2014. Will California be ready?

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California Not Affected by Obamacare Court Challenge; At Least Not Yet

(Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

(Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

It’s been three years, but the Affordable Care Act is before the Supreme Court again. The constitutionality of the law was settled then. This time, the question is subsidies. Oral arguments happen Wednesday.

The case is King v. Burwell, and the heart of the matter is whether the ACA permits subsidies to be granted to people who live in the 34 states that use the federally-run marketplace, healthcare.gov.

Note well: people in California, and the 13 other states that set up their own insurance marketplaces are not affected by this case. No one is challenging the legality of the subsidies as a whole — only whether they may legally go to people who live in states using healthcare.gov. Continue reading

Many Who Got Obamacare Subsidies Now Face Big Tax Bill

(Getty Images)

(Getty Images)

By Anna Gorman, Kaiser Health News

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.

‘This is supposed to be a safety net health care, and I am getting burned left and right by having used it.’  

But this year the 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 back. Continue reading

Covered California Grants Special Enrollment Through April

Certified specialist helps a consumer apply to Covered California at a free enrollment fair at Pasadena City College. (David McNew/Getty Images)

Certified specialist helps a consumer apply to Covered California at a free enrollment fair at Pasadena City College. (David McNew/Getty Images)

Covered California will offer a special extension to buy health insurance through the marketplace for people who say they weren’t aware they would face a tax penalty for being uninsured.

Covered California Executive Director Peter Lee announced the extension Friday. He said the special enrollment will start on Monday and run through April 30. People must attest to the fact that they were not aware of the penalty, which they can do when they apply on the Covered California website.

Lee said as many as 600,000 people may face a penalty under the Affordable Care Act. While the extension does not exempt people from paying the 2014 tax penalty, it would help them avoid bigger penalties in 2015. Continue reading

Covered California: You Still Have A Few Days to Sign Up

Screenshot of Covered California's website.

Screenshot of Covered California’s website.

Nearly 474,000 people signed up for health insurance on Covered California, the state’s marketplace, by the deadline Sunday night, officials announced today. But if you didn’t sign up, you still have a chance.

As Covered California has done in the past, the agency is allowing a few extra days for those who have started the application process, but not yet finished. That extra time was announced last week.

On Tuesday, executive director Peter Lee added a couple more days to the deadline. Now people have until this Sunday to finish applications. The change aligns Covered California with a federal extension announced over the weekend. Continue reading

Covered California Considering Enrollment ‘Contingency Plans’ Tied to Tax Deadline

Screenshot from the Covered California website.

Screenshot from the Covered California website.

Covered California open enrollment ends this Sunday. Sort of.

Special enrollment for people who did not know about the tax penalty?    

For starters, the agency announced Thursday that people who start an application by this Sunday get until next Friday, Feb. 20, to finish it. That’s similar to steps that Covered California has taken in the past. 

But advocates have long been frustrated with the timing of open enrollment. That’s because of how penalties for lacking insurance are assessed — on your taxes. The tax deadline is not for another two months, April 15. Continue reading

As Covered California Enrollment Winds Down, a Push for HIV Prevention

By Heather Boerner

You’ve got just three days left to choose a new health plan under Covered California.

Choose carefully — especially if you want to take the only pill approved by the Food and Drug Administration to block HIV.

“Some plans may look appealing because their premiums are low,” Dr. Hyman Scott, who specializes in HIV at San Francisco General Hospital, said he tells patients interested in the drug, Truvada. “But the copays and deductibles, especially for what are often considered specialty drugs, can be really high.”

Enrollment in Covered California closes Sunday. Local doctors, social workers and navigators are helping the people most at risk for HIV figure out how — and if — they can afford the drug, which costs $13,000 a year, according to the drug’s maker, Gilead Sciences. Continue reading

Schools Helping Families Enroll in Covered California and Medi-Cal

A parent talks to a health care enrollment specialist at a health insurance sign-up event at Natomas Unified in Sacramento. (Courtesy: The Children's Partnership)

A parent talks to a health care enrollment specialist at a health insurance sign-up event at Natomas Unified in Sacramento. (Courtesy: The Children’s Partnership)

By Jane Meredith Adams, EdSource

With huge numbers of California children still uninsured, schools are beginning to take the lead in letting families know that affordable health care coverage is available.

The deadline to sign up for a Covered California plan is this Sunday.
In school libraries and courtyards from Sacramento to Los Angeles and beyond, trained enrollment counselors have been invited to set up folding tables, commandeer desk space and corral parents before the Feb. 15 sign-up deadline for Covered California, the state’s health insurance marketplace created under the Affordable Care Act.

And the outreach will increase. Under a new state law, all California schools must include in their 2015-16 enrollment packets information about options for health care coverage and how to get help with the sign-up process. The law, Assembly Bill 2706, authored by Roger Hernández, D-West Covina, is intended to reduce the number of children who are eligible for health insurance subsidies but remain uninsured. Continue reading

Half of California’s Children Now Covered by Medi-Cal

Sarah Boone, a behavior analyst with the social services agency EMQ FamiliesFirst, evaluates Ernesto Santiago, 6, of San Jose for autism therapy services. (Barbara Feder Ostrov/Kaiser Health News)

Sarah Boone, a behavior analyst with the social services agency EMQ FamiliesFirst, evaluates Ernesto Santiago, 6, of San Jose for autism therapy services. (Barbara Feder Ostrov/Kaiser Health News)

By Barbara Feder Ostrov, Kaiser Health News

California’s Medi-Cal program has grown to cover nearly half of the state’s children, causing policymakers and child advocates to question the ability of the taxpayer-funded program to adequately serve so many poor kids.

In the past two years alone, the program has added nearly 1 million young people up to age 20, including those newly eligible for Medi-Cal coverage under the Affordable Care Act. The increase brings the total number of young people on Medi-Cal to 5.2 million, more than ever before.

Medi-Cal is California’s version of Medicaid and the largest program of its kind in the nation.

Many pediatricians and specialists already refuse to accept new Medi-Cal patients, at least in part because the program offers among the lowest payment rates in the country. New rate cuts took effect this January. Health care advocates say adding more children to the mix will only worsen the likelihood of timely treatment. Continue reading

Latino Obamacare Enrollment Keeping Pace

Screenshot from the Covered California website.

Screenshot from the Covered California website.

By April Dembosky

California’s health insurance marketplace is holding steady in signing Latinos up for coverage under the Affordable Care Act: 28 percent of people who have enrolled in a plan so far this season are Latino, according to data released at Covered California’s board meeting on Thursday.

That’s exactly the same breakdown as last year, when the first open enrollment period closed. Latinos make up more than 60 percent of the uninsured population in California.

However, of the people who have started an application but haven’t picked a plan, 50 percent are Latino. Continue reading

Filing Your Taxes? Here’s How To Prove You Have Health Insurance

(Getty Images)

(Getty Images)

By Michelle Andrews, Kaiser Health News

In addition to the normal thrills and chills of the income tax filing season, this year consumers have the added excitement of figuring out how the health law figures in their 2014 taxes.

The good news is that for most people the only change to their normal tax filing routine will be to check the box on their Form 1040 that says they had health insurance all year.

“Someone who had employer-based coverage or Medicaid or Medicare, that’s all they have to do,” says Tricia Brooks, a senior fellow at Georgetown University’s Center for Children and Families.

The law requires people to have “minimum essential coverage,” but most types of insurance qualify. Continue reading