Subsidies

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3 Out of 4 Uninsured Californians Eligible, But Unaware of Obamacare Benefits

(Getty Images)

(Getty Images)

By Sarah Varney, Kaiser Health News

As uninsured Californians head into a new era of health coverage, they’re worried about costs and unaware of the help they’ll get from the government, a new survey finds.

The survey, by the Kaiser Family Foundation, found that three out of four Californians who earn modest incomes and could buy government-subsidized private coverage wrongly believe they’re not eligible for federal assistance or simply don’t know if they qualify.

In addition, many undocumented immigrants, who constitute about a fifth of the state’s uninsured population, erroneously believe they will be eligible for coverage. The law specifically bars them from getting coverage from the state’s new health insurance marketplace, which opens next Tuesday, for coverage beginning Jan.1, 2014.

“This has been, for so long, a political debate,” said Anthony Wright, executive director of Health Access, a Sacramento-based consumer advocacy group. “We’re just starting to move it into a practical reality. Now that the benefits are close at hand, there is a concerted effort to educate people about what their benefits are.” Continue reading

No Wonk: How Obamacare Subsidies Work for Consumers

By Julie Appleby, Kaiser Health News

subsidies key 300Tax credits to help low- and moderate-income Americans buy health insurance will become available in January under the health law, when for the first time, most people will be required to have coverage or pay a fine.

The process could be complicated for some consumers, but information about how the system will work may help.

Cathy Livingston, a lawyer in Washington, D.C., who specializes in tax issues involving the federal health law, spoke recently with KHN about how to find out if you’re eligible for a premium subsidy and how the process will work. Before joining the law firm, Livingston worked in the Office of Chief Counsel for the IRS.

The credits are available to people who don’t get what is considered affordable, comprehensive coverage through their jobs, and whose household income is less than 400 percent of the federal poverty level, which this year is about $46,000 for an individual, or about $78,000 for a family of three. (Families USA has a great chart so you can match up your household size and income to see if you are under 400 percent of poverty.)

Most of the 7 million people projected to shop for coverage in new online health insurance marketplaces, also called exchanges, will be eligible for the subsidies, expected to average $5,290 per enrollee.

People who don’t have insurance coverage could face fines, which are $95 per adult and $47.50 per child the first year, or 1 percent of family income, whichever is greater. The fines will rise in later years.

Here is an excerpt, edited for length and clarity, of Livingston’s conversation with KHN staff writer Julie Appleby.

Q: The law bases eligibility on household income. What does that include? Continue reading