Confusion about the health law reigns for many small businesses
By Kelley Weiss, CHCF Center for Health Reporting
Tax credits for small businesses offering health insurance have been available since the health law was passed in 2010. (Photo/Getty Images)
With less than a year to go before the full rollout of Obamacare, many business owners are still scratching their heads over what it will mean for them.
In fact, most still wrongly believe they’ll have to offer health insurance to their employees, according to a recent eHealth survey. While businesses with 50 or more full time employees will have to pay a $2,000 penalty per worker if they do not offer health insurance, there is no penalty for smaller businesses.
Another commonly misunderstood part of the health care law is the role of the tax code. John Gonzales [also with the Center for Health Reporting] has more details about how paying your taxes and Obamacare works. It’s the bedrock of enforcing the law and subsidizing premiums for people to buy insurance.
At an event about taxes and Obamacare, UCLA health care economist Dylan Roby gave a somewhat grim picture. He says widespread ignorance and varying degrees of hostility towards the health care law persist among business owners.
“Many of these employers, especially on the smaller level, are not that great about maintaining a relationship with the government,” Roby says. Continue reading
The president talks up the health care overhaul at Tuesday’s press conference
The health care overhaul is “a big complicated piece of business,” President Obama told reporters during Tuesday’s news conference. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)
If you’re one of the millions of people confused about Obamacare, the president took a few minutes on Tuesday to reiterate his main messages about the federal health law.
“For the 85 to 90 percent of Americans who already have health insurance, they’re already experiencing most of the benefits of the Affordable Care Act even if they don’t know it,” the president said.
He called insurance “stronger, better, more secure,” for people than before the law’s passage. ”Full stop. That’s it. Now they don’t have to worry about anything else.”
President Obama specifically mentioned three benefits of the ACA already in place:
- Children can stay on their parents’ plan until age 26
- Your insurance company cannot drop you if you get sick
- You get free preventive care with no co-pay and no deductible (including many cancer screening tests)
The law also has banned lifetime caps on coverage. For people who have employer-based insurance or Medicare, most of the changes required by the law are already in place.
For people who do not have insurance — or who buy insurance for themselves or their families — “implementation issues” remain, the president said. Continue reading
Public health implications as people who stop taking HIV medications can quickly become infectious
Dr. Kathleen Clanon talks to patient Andrew Solis about keeping his HIV under control. Clanon worries her patients will have disruptions in their care if they don’t navigate the changes coming under federal health reform. (Mina Kim/KQED)
A major goal of the federal health care law is that millions of people who currently do not have health insurance will have improved access to care. But the massive overhaul is also expected to be widely disruptive, and doctors worry that many people with chronic illness could suffer during the changeover, as KQED’s Mina Kim details today on The California Report.
Kim tells the story of 33-year-old Andrew Solis who stopped taking HIV medications more than a year ago after becoming addicted to methamphetamine while in a “rocky relationship.” He resumed treatment at the Oakland Highland Hospital HIV clinic last October after ending the relationship.
Solis has been able to get back in to treatment fairly easily, Kiim reports. But changes coming under the Affordable Care Act could complicate care for clinic patients, says Kathleen Clanon, chief medical officer at Highland Hospital. Continue reading
By John M. Gonzales, CHCF Center for Health Reporting
The income you declare this year will be used to determine if you’re eligible for a health insurance subsidy starting in January. (Getty Images)
If you’re among millions of uninsured Californians eligible for government-subsidized insurance, the ripples of health reform start with Monday’s tax deadline.
First, the government will use your return this year as its first yardstick for how much of a subsidy or tax break it contributes to your health coverage next year. And second, if you don’t have health insurance a year from now, a penalty will be added to your federal tax bill.
These are among ways the federal tax code will increasingly be at the forefront of health reform’s implementation. Other provisions are also kicking in as the countdown continues toward full operation of the Affordable Care Act on Jan. 1.
The provision that will provide the biggest boost to taxpayers is the one that offers subsidies for uninsured people who obtain coverage through new insurance exchanges.
“It’s a tremendous deal for the people who are currently uninsured,” said Larry Levitt, senior vice president at the Kaiser Family Foundation. Continue reading
By Judy Lin, Associated Press
OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — Set on a gritty corner of Oakland’s International Boulevard, the nonprofit Street Level Health Project offers free checkups to patients who speak a total of 22 languages, from recent Mongolian immigrants seeking a doctor to Burmese refugees in need of a basic dental exam.
It also provides a window into one of the challenges for state officials who are trying to implement the Affordable Care Act, President Barack Obama’s sweeping health care overhaul.
“‘Covered California’ translates to ‘California Cubierto’ in Spanish — but what exactly does it mean?”
Understanding the law is a challenge even for governors, state lawmakers and agency officials, but delivering its message to non-English speakers who can benefit from it is shaping up as a special complication. That is especially true in California and other states with large and diverse immigrant populations.
California has the largest minority population of any state, about 22.3 million people. That’s followed by Texas with 13.7 million, and New York with 8.1 million. Continue reading
In a move that is expected to have repercussions across the country, the Obama Administration on Monday filed a brief in the Ninth Circuit Court in support of Gov. Jerry Brown’s proposed 10 percent payment cuts to Medi-Cal providers.
Some background: The provider cuts were approved by CMS back in 2011, but then immediately challenged by the California Medical Association (and others) in federal court. A federal judge blocked the cuts. The state of California appealed to the Ninth Circuit. A three-judge panel approved the cuts. The CMA asked for an en banc review by all of the judges.
And that’s where we are today, with the Obama Administration’s brief.
The timing is interesting, as it comes when the National Governors Association is meeting in Washington, and the Obama Administration is trying to convince states to implement the Medicaid expansion portion of the health care overhaul. As the New York Times reports, the Administration seems to be in support of giving states flexibility: Continue reading
California is first state to announce benefit plans including co-pays, deductibles
California’s insurance marketplace, Covered California, will open in October, 2013. People will be able to buy insurance, which will take effect January 1, 2014.
Calling today a “game changer for California and a game changer for the nation,” Peter Lee, executive director of Covered California, the state’s marketplace for health insurance, announced benefit plans that will be featured in the exchange.
He also unveiled its updated website (in English and Spanish) where consumers can access what is sure to be a very popular premium calculator. People with incomes up to 400 percent of poverty are eligible for subsidies from the federal government to help purchase insurance. The calculator gives an estimate of what you will pay after the subsidy.
An estimated 2.6 million Californians are expected to qualify for the subsidy. People who receive Medi-Cal or employer-based health insurance are not eligible and will continue to receive health insurance through their current plans.
California is the first state in the nation to release benefit packages for the public to review. ”The most important aspect of these plans is that they’re standardized. … Consumers will be able to make apples-to-apples comparisons that they haven’t been able to make in the past,” Lee said in a press conference. Continue reading
In Thursday’s State of the State speech, Gov. Brown called for a special legislative session to address the Affordable Care Act. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
In his State of the State speech Thursday morning, Gov. Brown spent about 60 seconds addressing health and human services — and all those seconds were devoted to the rollout of the Affordable Care Act.
Early in his speech, Brown reiterated his theme of fiscal discipline and seemed to urge caution in implementing the Affordable Care Act, stating, “The ultimate costs of expanding our health care system under the Affordable Care Act are unknown. Ignoring such known unknowns would be folly.”
Later in the speech came the bulk of his comments about the ACA. Here’s the transcript:
“California was the first in the nation to pass laws to implement President Obama’s historic Affordable Care Act. Our health benefit exchange, called Covered California, will begin next year providing insurance to nearly one million Californians. Over the rest of this decade, California will steadily reduce the number of the uninsured. Today I’m calling for a special session to deal with those issues that must be decided quickly if California is to get the Affordable Care Act started by next January. Continue reading
A new report finds California could see a significant increase in Medi-Cal coverage at “minimal” cost to the state. Medi-Cal is the state’s version of Medicaid, health insurance largely for the poor. In the new study from researchers at UC Berkeley and UCLA, analysts report that 1.4 million California adults under 65 will be newly eligible for Medi-Cal. The Affordable Care Act says the federal government will pay 100 percent of the costs of these new enrollees from 2014 to 2016 and no less than 90 percent of the cost after that.
In addition, the implementation of the ACA is expected to bring many people already eligible for Medi-Cal into the fold. The state will pay a greater share of the costs for those people.
Altogether, analysts project that from 2014 to 2016, California will incur additional annual costs between $188 million and $471 million. But at the same time, billions of dollars will flow into the state, paying the overwhelming majority of total costs for the newly enrolled and those already eligible.
“This is a really great opportunity for California to enroll and offer coverage to over a million people at a very low cost to the state,” said Laurel Lucia, lead author of the study and a policy analyst at the UC Berkeley Center for Labor Research and Education. Continue reading