Individual Mandate

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Enroll by Valentine’s Day to Avoid Obamacare Fines

(Getty Images)

(Getty Images)

When it comes to Obamacare, the big date we’ve heard for a long time is Jan. 1, 2014. That’s the day the Affordable Care Act takes full effect, requiring most Americans to be covered, or pay a fine.

We’ve also heard that there’s a grace period — that in this first year, people have until March 31 get covered before the fine will kick in.

But, whoops! It turns out that Mar. 31 date is wrong, the Obama administration confirmed to the Associated Press on Wednesday. In order to have coverage by March 31, you need to enroll by Feb. 15 — in other words, the day after Valentine’s Day — to avoid the penalty.

Here’s why: It takes about two weeks to process applications. Insurance takes effect on the first of the month. You need to enroll by Feb. 15, for the insurance to take effect March 1. Insurance on April 1 is too late, and you will pay the fine.

The Jackson Hewitt tax preparation company first pointed out the wrinkle with the health care law’s least popular requirement.

An administration official confirmed it. The official was not authorized to speak publicly and insisted on anonymity.  Continue reading

Obamacare FAQ: How Will the Individual Mandate Work?

(Getty Images)

(Getty Images)

By Alvin Tran, Kaiser Health News

It’s one of the key building blocks of the insurance overhaul: the individual mandate. It requires most people to obtain health insurance or pay a tax penalty.

If you already have insurance through work or a government health insurance program like Medicare or Medi-Cal, you’re set. If not, you can shop on a new online marketplace, such as Covered California here in the Golden State.

Yet 26 percent of Americans aren’t aware of the requirement or didn’t think the law included it, according to a March 2013 Kaiser Family Foundation poll.

Here are some basic questions and answers about mandate.

Q. What is the individual mandate?

“This individual mandate is to keep premiums low for everyone. If you don’t have incentives for everyone to sign up then only the sick people will enroll.”
A. The individual mandate is a provision of the federal health law (i.e. “Obamacare”) that requires you, your children and anyone else that you claim as a dependent on your taxes to have health insurance in 2014 or pay a penalty. That coverage can be supplied through your job, public programs such as Medicare or Medicaid, or an individual policy that you purchase. The health law is setting up online health insurance marketplaces, also known as exchanges, to help you shop for plans.

Q. Who is affected by the mandate?

A. The mandate is aimed at some of the 57 million people younger than 65 who now do not have insurance. Roughly 7 million of those without insurance live in California.

Q. Are there any exceptions to the mandate?

A. Yes, the government has identified exemptions. Individuals who cannot afford coverage because the cost of premiums exceed 8 percent of their household income or those whose household incomes are below the minimum threshold for filing a tax return are exempt. Continue reading

What Impact Will the Court’s Decision Have on California?

(Ronnie Pitman: Flickr)

Over the last year as the myriad court cases about the federal health care law have made their way to the highest court in the land, California has spent that time moving ahead aggressively in implementing the Affordable Care Act (ACA). California was the first state to pass legislation to set up a health insurance exchange. The state also set up a new high risk pool so people with pre-existing conditions can get health insurance.

But what happens if the Supreme Court declares the individual mandate unconstitutional? Or overturns the entire law? What can still go forward in California?

The answer depends in part upon whom you ask. But for the most part California — like all states — will find it tough to move forward without the backing of the federal law. Continue reading

Supreme Court Justices Sharply Question Individual Mandate

By: KQED News Staff and wires

Chief Justice John Roberts is emerging as a potential swing vote. (Courtesy: U.S. Supreme Court)

Chief Justice John Roberts is emerging as a potential swing vote regarding the individual mandate. (Courtesy: U.S. Supreme Court)

Sharp questioning by the Supreme Court’s conservative justices has cast serious doubt on the survival of the individual insurance requirement at the heart of President Barack Obama’s historic health care overhaul.

Arguments at the high court Tuesday focused on whether the insurance requirement “is a step beyond what our cases allow,” in the words of Justice Anthony Kennedy.

He and Chief Justice John Roberts are emerging as the seemingly pivotal votes.

Justices Antonin Scalia and Samuel Alito appeared likely to join with Justice Clarence Thomas to vote to strike down the key provision. The four Democratic appointees seemed ready to vote to uphold it.

The individual mandate requires those not covered by employer-based health insurance, Medicare or Medicaid to purchase coverage, with the help of government subsidies if they meet a certain income threshold. Continue reading

Health Insurance Executive Is Longtime Backer of Universal Coverage

Bruce Bodaken is CEO of Blue Shield of California. (Photo Courtesy of Blue Shield)

Bruce Bodaken is CEO of Blue Shield of California. (Photo: Cindy Charles)

To those who haven’t followed the health care debate closely until now, you might be surprised by one of California’s leading proponents of universal coverage. It’s Bruce Bodaken, CEO of Blue Shield of California, one of California’s largest health insurance companies. He first proposed a system of universal coverage for Californians ten years ago.

“At that time, there was 20 percent of Californians without coverage,” he said in an interview with KQED. “We looked at that in one of the richest societies in the world and said, ‘Simply unacceptable for people not to have at least basic health care.’ So we proposed that all people in California have at least basic coverage. Those that can’t afford it would be subsidized and all groups and individuals would be mandated to be covered.”

It sounds a lot like the Affordable Care Act (ACA) being considered by the Supreme Court this week. Tomorrow, the Court will hear oral arguments about the constitutionality of the individual mandate — the requirement that all Americans have health insurance. Those opposed say that Congress has exceeded its authority in requiring Americans to purchase a product. Continue reading

Uninsured–and Still Against the Health Law

Libertarian Paul Ruffino, 55, has been looking for an insurance plan since leaving his previous job. Several insurance companies refuse to cover him because he has pre-existing conditions.

Libertarian Paul Ruffino, 55, has been looking for an insurance plan since leaving his previous job. Several insurance companies refuse to cover him because he has pre-existing conditions. (Photo: Sarah Varney)

Today marks the second anniversary of the federal health care law, and, unless you’ve been depriving yourself of news for the last several weeks, that same law will be front and center before the Supreme Court starting Monday. Here in California, uninsured Californians have a particular stake in the Court’s actions.

Madera County is a largely conservative and agricultural area where one in every three people lacks coverage. While many people say they want the Supreme Court to throw out the federal health law, I found that many there are struggling to reconcile their political views with the basic need for health insurance.

I started off in Oakhurst. Here, just a few miles from the entrance to Yosemite National Park, is the Sweetwater Steakhouse, a local watering hole where no one is shy about their opinions of President Obama’s signature initiative, including people like Joe Stern. “ObamaCare is absolutely horrible, horrible, horrible. It should struck down immediately.” Continue reading

The 4 Health Care Overhaul Questions Before the Supreme Court

The Supreme Court issued its decisions on the Affordable Care Act on June 28, 2012. This post has been updated to reflect the court’s rulings.

(Courtesy: U.S. Supreme Court)

(Courtesy: U.S. Supreme Court)

Next Monday, the Supreme Court begins considering the Constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act, or ACA. Three days, six hours of oral arguments. But it’s not just one long slog about health care reform. The Supreme Court is considering four different questions over those three days.

Legal scholars, pundits and those suitably opinionated have been pontificating about all kinds of legal issues. But the average American might want to know, in straightforward language, what those Four Questions actually mean.

Here’s my take on them: Continue reading

Without Individual Mandate, Fewer Californians with Health Insurance

(s_falkow: Flickr)

(s_falkow: Flickr)

In March, the U.S. Supreme Court will consider the constitutionality of several aspects of health care reform, including the “individual mandate,” the requirement that all Americans have health insurance.

In a new study, [PDF] researchers at the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research and UC Berkeley crunched the numbers and determined that without the individual mandate, more than one million Californians would put off buying health insurance.

The individual mandate is part of The Affordable Care Act, set to roll out in 2014. The mandate requires people to purchase health insurance or pay a tax penalty up to $2085 per household. Continue reading

Great Subject for a Graphic Novel: Health Reform

(Courtesy: Kaiser Health News)

(Courtesy: Kaiser Health News)

Michelle Andrews at Kaiser Health News features a Q&A today with MIT economist Jonathan Gruber, who hatched the idea to inform people about health care reform via a graphic novel.

Key Takeaway? After health reform passed in Massachusetts, Gruber says, “Premiums for individual market plans fell by 50 percent relative to national trends. The biggest surprise to me is that employer-sponsored health insurance actually went up after reform when it was falling everywhere else in the country.”

No kidding. In California, employers offering health insurance fell from 73 percent to 63 percent in the last two years, according to a study released just last week.

Here’s Andrews complete story:

Nearly two years after the passage of the federal health law, more than 40 percent of people say they know little or nothing about how the law will affect them, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation’s latest poll. That figure hasn’t budged since April 2010, just after the law was signed. Continue reading