Affordable Care Act

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Obamacare FAQ: Are You Eligible for a Subsidy?

(Getty Images)

(Getty Images)

Editor’s note: For people buying on the individual market who want health insurance starting Jan. 1, the deadline to sign up is Monday, Dec. 23. State of Health is running one post a day with questions and answers on both the Affordable Care Act and Covered California until that deadline. This installment comes from KQED’s Obamacare Guide, written specifically for Californians.

I’ve Heard the Government Is Offering Subsidies to Buy Insurance. Tell Me More.

You may qualify for a subsidy — in the form of a tax credit — to help you pay for health insurance. Tax credits are available on a sliding scale, according to your income. More than 2 million Californians will qualify for a tax credit.

If you earn between 138 and 400 percent of poverty ($15,850 – $46,000 for an individual; $32,500 – $94,200 for a family of four), you may qualify for a federal tax credit. The credit will be applied to the cost of your premium. You choose when you want to receive the credit. You might want to receive it monthly, so that you will pay less each month, or you may elect to receive it all at once when you file your taxes in the following year. Continue reading

Obamacare FAQ: Do Immigrants Qualify?

A view of the the Statue of Liberty. (Timothy Clary/AFP/Getty Images)

A view of the the Statue of Liberty. (Timothy Clary/AFP/Getty Images)

Editor’s note: For people buying on the individual market who want health insurance starting Jan. 1, the deadline to sign up is Monday, Dec. 23. State of Health is running one post a day with questions and answers on both the Affordable Care Act and Covered California until that deadline. This installment comes from KQED’s Obamacare Guide, written specifically for Californians.

The headline for immigrants is that if you are “lawfully present” (the legal term of art), you are eligible for the benefits — and responsibilities — of the Affordable Care Act. This means you may qualify for subsidies to purchase insurance, but it also means you may have to pay a penalty if you do not carry health insurance. While naturalized citizens and green card holders may be aware of how Obamacare affects them, for other immigrants, access to these kinds of benefits is new. Undocumented immigrants are not eligible for any benefits of the ACA. They do not have to pay a penalty if they do not carry health insurance.

I Am in the U.S. Legally, But I Do Not Have a Green Card. I Am Here under a Different Kind of Visa. What Does the Health Law Mean to Me?

U.S. law includes a wide variety of ways in which immigrants can be lawfully present, even if they are not green card holders. Continue reading

Obamacare FAQ: Can I Drop My Employer-Offered Insurance?

(Getty Images)

(Getty Images)

Editor’s note: For people buying on the individual market who want health insurance starting Jan. 1, the deadline to sign up is Monday, Dec. 23. We will run one post a day with questions and answers on the Affordable Care Act and Covered California until that deadline. Today’s installment comes from the Center for Health Reporting’s Ask Emily column. Readers can also consult KQED’s Obamacare Guide, written specifically for Californians.

By Emily Bazar

Q: If my husband’s employer offers health care insurance but it is unaffordable, where does that leave us? Will we qualify for help under Obamacare or will we be out in the cold? We make about $45,000 annually.

A: Apparently, lots of you dislike the health insurance options offered by your employers.

Carrie from the Sacramento suburbs submitted this question, but I’ve received a crush of similar queries from all over the state.

Your most common complaint? The coverage is too expensive. The runner-up: The plans your employers offer don’t cover certain benefits, doctors or hospitals. Continue reading

Obamacare Vs. Royal Baby; Obamacare Wins!

You're cute Prince George, but not cute enough to beat out Obamacare. (John Stillwell/AFP/Getty Images)

You’re cute Prince George, but not cute enough to beat out Obamacare. (John Stillwell/AFP/Getty Images)

Yahoo ranks all manner of searches in its annual Year in Review: Top Searched Handbags; Top Searched Celebrity Pregnancies.

But here at State of Health, we were much more interested in Yahoo’s Most Searched News Stories — and were thrilled to see that “obamacare (affordable care act)” came in second. That in and of itself wasn’t a huge surprise, because we know Obamacare is a big news story. But it’s who Obamacare beat that was startling: the Royal Baby.

That’s right. People searched more for the Affordable Care Act than they did the birth of Prince George. The ranking went as follows (lower case is search-style):

Medi-Cal Enrollment Surging Via Covered California

(David McNew/Getty Images)

(David McNew/Getty Images)

David Gorn, California Healthline

The Department of Health Care Services released enrollment numbers last week for Medi-Cal-eligible Californians who initially contacted the Covered California health benefit exchange.

The department said 143,608 people will likely receive Medi-Cal coverage as a result of contacting Covered California.

That’s about 40 percent of all applications completed through the exchange, said Anthony Cava, a spokesperson for DHCS.

“We are very pleased with this surge of interest and the momentum we are seeing in consumer awareness,” Cava said in a written statement. Continue reading

Some With Canceled Insurance Happy About New Plans, Price

Jane Bradford and her family will save more than $400 a month on premiums, she says. (Photo Courtesy of Bradford Family)

Jane Bradford and her family will save more than $400 a month on premiums, she says. (Photo Courtesy of Bradford Family)

By Stephanie O’Neill, KPCC and Kaiser Health News

Barbara Neff of Santa Monica is one of the roughly 1 million Californians who recently got word that their health insurance coverage would be expiring soon. The canceled plans sparked a political firestorm as people realized President Barack Obama’s promise – “If you like your plan, you can keep it” — didn’t apply to everyone.

But Neff, a 46-year-old self-employed writer, isn’t outraged. She’s relieved. Even though she makes too much money to receive a subsidy to buy insurance under the Affordable Care Act, the policy cancellation was good news for her.

Neff says she’s been stuck in a bad plan because treatment for a back problem years ago red-flagged her with a preexisting condition.

“The deductible has ranged anywhere from $3,000 to as high as $5,000, which means I have to spend that much each year before the insurance even kicks in,” she says. “I was rejected [from a more affordable policy] because I’d had a bout of sciatica five years previously that has never returned.” Continue reading

Canceled Insurance? Pre-ACA Plans Still Available, Could Save You Money

(Getty Images)

(Getty Images)

Some Californians whose policies have been canceled are finding relief in a surprising place: from insurance companies that aren’t offering plans on the Covered California marketplace.

Earlier this year, Aetna announced it would bow out of the state’s individual market — effective Dec. 31. Cigna is staying, but is not offering any products on the exchange. Right now, both companies are accepting new customers into pre-ACA plans. Aetna plans are available to Costco members only until Dec. 15; Cigna is offering pre-ACA plans through Dec. 23.

Anne Gonzales, a Covered California spokeswoman, confirmed that a carrier not offering plans on Covered California “could offer a non-compliant plan through 12/31/2013 but it would need to become compliant when it renews next year.” So, consumers can enroll now, but when the policy comes up for renewal in 12 months, the plans would need to come into compliance with the ACA — and premiums would almost certainly go up.

Jason Andrew, CEO of Stone Meadow Benefits in Redwood City, says he has “tons of letters on my desk” from clients who have received notice that their policies were canceled. The policies they have been offered are “all more expensive and not as good of coverage,” he says. Continue reading

Californians With Canceled Policies Cannot Renew

Screenshot from CoveredCA.com, the website of Covered California.

Screenshot from CoveredCA.com, the website of Covered California.

After long discussion, the board of Covered California, the state’s health insurance marketplace, voted unanimously Thursday to stay the course and phase out plans that do not comply with the Affordable Care Act by Dec. 31.

The board’s decision comes a week after President Obama said states should consider allowing consumers whose plans were canceled to renew them through 2014. Dave Jones, California’s insurance commissioner, said he agreed with the president’s request.

But ultimately the authority to permit renewals rested with the board –- because of the contracts insurers have with Covered California. The board weighed whether to release carriers from the provision requiring them to phase out plans that do not have the benefits required by the ACA.

The board had three options before it: permit no renewals; permit consumers to renew through Mar. 31, 2014; or permit renewals through Dec. 31, 2014. In a detailed analysis (definitely worth a read), Leesa Tori, senior advisor to Covered California laid out the pros and cons of each, but there was no clear best option. “If we (allow extensions), are we making more of a mess or are we actually helping?” she said. Continue reading

Insurance Canceled? Obama Now Says Companies Can Offer One-Year Renewals

President Barack Obama speaks on the Affordable Care Act in the White House briefing room. (Win McNamee/Getty Images)

President Barack Obama speaks on the Affordable Care Act in the White House briefing room. (Win McNamee/Getty Images)

WASHINGTON (AP) — Bowing to pressure, President Barack Obama on Thursday announced changes to his health care law to give insurance companies the option to keep offering consumers plans that would otherwise be canceled.

The administrative changes are good for just one year, though senior administration officials said they could be extended if problems with the law persist. Obama announced the changes at the White House.

The impact is unclear. While insurance companies will be able to offer people renewals, companies are not required to do so.

“This fix won’t solve every problem for every person, but it’s going to help a lot of people,” the president said.

He acknowledged that “we fumbled the rollout of this health care law” and pledged to “just keep on chipping away at this until the job is done.”

He also promised to work to regain the trust of the American people.

“I think it’s legitimate for them to expect me to have to win back some credibility on this health care law in particular and on a whole range of these issues in general,” he said. Continue reading

Bay Area Groups Struggle to Enroll Filipinos in Covered California

Filipino Youth Coalition presents information about Covered California in an event at the Milpitas Library. (Vanessa Ochavillo/Peninsula Press)

Filipino Youth Coalition presents information about Covered California in an event at the Milpitas Library. (Vanessa Ochavillo/Peninsula Press)

By Vanessa Ochavillo, Peninsula Press

Filipino health advocates in the Bay Area are working overtime to educate the community about the Affordable Care Act and to enroll as many people as possible in California’s health insurance online marketplace before the Dec. 15 deadline.

The rollout of the state’s new exchange was accompanied by an ambitious outreach program that awarded grants to community organizations that would use their “trusted relationships” to get target populations enrolled.

“We get so many calls to make presentations, and we can only do so much. The resources are so limited.”

But a lack of adequate funding and manpower has made it difficult to educate eligible, uninsured Filipinos about Covered California, the state’s health insurance exchange.

The problems in the Filipino community — the largest Asian minority in California — come as uninsured Americans across the country struggle to enroll in a plan because of widespread technical problems with the federally-run HealthCare.gov website. California residents can sign up for a plan via a separate website run by Covered California which has encountered some glitches but not on the scale that the federal website has seen. Continue reading