“In total, the bill will cover about 2.5 million Georgians, we estimate,” said Laura Colbert, executive director of Georgians for a Healthy Future, who lobbied to get the bill through…
Tag: health reform
If you are a consumer who enrolled in health insurance through the Marketplace with a tax credit, you likely received a 1095-A form in the mail. You may also have some questions about how to complete the health insurance information on your tax filing form. If your organization works directly with consumers, either providing enrollment assistance or helping them with tax preparation, you may also be hearing about the 1095-A and may have some questions about how health insurance and tax filings intersect. Below is a primer, replete with flow chart, which breaks it all down for you.
Where consumers get their coverage—Marketplace, employer, Medicaid—will determine the impact coverage has on their taxes. Consumers who have health insurance through their jobs will likely see no changes when they file their taxes – they just check the box on their tax forms indicating they had coverage throughout the year. The same thing applies to consumers who are covered by Medicaid, Medicare, or their parent’s health plan. Pretty simple!
During this year’s open enrollment period, 536,929 Georgians purchased health insurance through Healthcare.gov and about 90% received financial assistance to help lower the cost of their premiums. To keep that tax credit, they’ll have to fill out Form 8962, which asks questions about their health insurance and their income. To help complete that form, all consumers that received a tax credit should have received Form 1095-A in the mail from the Marketplace. Consumers can also find this form on their Healthcare.gov account.
The health insurance tax credit is based on income and household size. When consumers applied for coverage, they estimated their income for the coming year and that amount was used to determine their tax credit. If a consumer misestimated their income, the credit they received may be too high or too low. During the tax filing process, the difference between estimated and actual income is reconciled, and the corresponding tax credit may be adjusted up or down. This means some consumers may get a refund and some consumers may have to pay back part of their tax credit. If a consumer did not apply for a tax credit previously, they can apply for a credit to be included in their tax refund.
If a consumer went without health care coverage at any point in the year, they may need to fill out an additional Form 8965 to determine whether or not they will need to pay a fine. This year the maximum fee per family will be $285, but fines will increase each year, up to 2% of a person’s annual income. If a person falls into Georgia’s coverage gap, they will not have to pay the fine, but will need to file the appropriate documents to prove they do not have access to affordable coverage
Household, family, and income changes should be reported throughout the year to Healthcare.gov in order to avoid surprises at tax time.
If you have questions about how your health coverage may affect your taxes, consult a tax professional. Our partners at Georgia Watch can connect you with free tax preparation help—just click here.
If you have recently gained health insurance through the Health Insurance Marketplace, it may seem like you need to learn a whole new language to understand your coverage. Health insurance can be confusing, especially if you have never had it before or haven’t had it in a while. Just understanding a few key terms, such as premium, deductible and co-pay, will go a long way in helping you use your health insurance effectively. Click here for a simple guide to help you understand your new coverage. Additionally, if you are having trouble using your health insurance you can contact Whitney Griggs, GHF’s Consumer Education Specialist, at email@example.com or at (404) 567-5016, extension 5.
Open Enrollment has officially ended but some Georgians that missed signing up during the three month period may be able to still get coverage. Those “in line” during this last three days of Open Enrollment who were unable to select a plan due to long call center wait times or technical issues have until Sunday, February 22 to enroll. In this circumstance, coverage will begin March 1st. Otherwise, consumers who have a “qualifying event” may be able to get coverage through a Special Enrollment Period. Special Enrollment Periods can occur at any time during the year and are usually triggered by specific events. These events include life changes such as a marriage, birth, change in eligible immigration status and a permanent move. Another type of event that could qualify consumers is a loss of other health coverage. These types of events could include an involuntary loss of employer coverage, loss of Medicaid coverage, and a death or divorce that results in a loss of coverage. In most cases, the Special Enrollment Period lasts for 60 days after the qualifying event occurs. To learn more about what types of events could trigger a Special Enrollment period, click here. If you think you may qualify, visit https://www.healthcare.gov/get-coverage or https://localhelp.healthcare.gov/ to find in-person assistance in your area.
Additionally, the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services just announced a Special Enrollment Period for tax season for consumers who were penalized for not having coverage in 2014 and are not currently enrolled in health insurance. To qualify for this Special Enrollment Period consumers must also attest that they were not aware of the penalty for not having health insurance until after the end of Open Enrollment (February 15th , 2015) because they filed their 2014 tax return after that date. This Special Enrollment Period will begin March 15th and end April 30th, 2015. Click here to learn more about the announcement.
On March 4th, the United States Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in King v. Burwell, a lawsuit challenging the tax credits that consumers utilizing the federal Health Insurance Marketplace receive to help make health insurance affordable. Consumers in thirty-four states, including Georgia, use the federal Marketplace to find and enroll in coverage. Nearly nine out of 10 people who enrolled in coverage through healthcare.gov received financial help and paid 75 percent less than the full monthly premium. This has helped bring the nation’s uninsured rate to an historic low.
A study by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Urban Institute found that the majority of health care consumers who would be impacted and who would likely become uninsured if the tax credits were struck down live in the South. Here in Georgia, hundreds of thousands of people are at risk for becoming uninsured.
We believe there is no legal basis for this challenge and that in June, when a decision comes down, we’ll all breathe a sigh of relief. If the court does, however, strike down the tax credits, such a decision would disproportionately impact the South and would put states like Georgia at a competitive disadvantage by exacerbating existing regional health disparities. If this comes to pass, Georgians for a Healthy Future will advocate for a contingency plan to ensure that Georgians have the same access to tax credits that their counterparts in states like New York, California, Colorado, and Kentucky (states that set up their own health insurance exchanges) have.
Our friends at Families USA have put together a resource page for advocates interested in learning more about King v. Burwell.
If you’ve been following the Peach Pulse you know that network adequacy is a hot topic in health care right now. (And if you missed it, check here and here to get caught up!) Decision-makers are weighing policy choices that will have implications for health care consumers in Georgia and across the nation. We know that they are hearing from health industry stakeholders; now they need to hear from you!
1) The US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Proposed Rule on the 2016 Notice of Benefit and Payment Parameters is open for comment until December 22, 2014. To submit a comment, click here.
2) The National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) is currently updating its model act on network adequacy. This model provides an example that states can use to enact their own legal protections to guarantee private insurance consumers an adequate provider network once they are enrolled in coverage. Advocates can email firstname.lastname@example.org until January 12, 2015 with input.
Consumer advocates are asking these two entities to put in place 1) specific network adequacy standards such as time and distance standards and appointment wait time standards and 2) rules that provide consumers the right to go out-of-network at no extra cost if their plan cannot provide them timely, geographically accessible, and appropriate in-network care. Please take a few moments to submit your comments to HHS and to the NAIC with this important request. If your organization is interested in engaging more deeply on this issue, please contact Laura Colbert at email@example.com to let us know you’re interested in collaborating.
When consumers enroll in a health insurance plan, they gain access to a network of medical providers. Insurance companies contract with a range of providers, including both primary care and specialty physicians, to deliver health care services included within the plan’s benefit package. This network of providers must be adequate to ensure that consumers enrolled in the plan have reasonable access to all covered benefits. This is what is meant by network adequacy. More specifically, to be considered adequate, a network must provide adequate numbers, types, and geographic distribution of providers; must ensure that access to care is timely; and must include essential community providers that serve predominantly low-income, medically underserved individuals. Additionally, accurate information about providers must be made available to consumers.
Network adequacy has become a hot topic over the past several months because many consumers who enrolled in new health plans through the Health Insurance Marketplace found that their plan came with a narrow network of providers. Provider directories weren’t always accurate or up-to-date, and consumers expressed a fair amount of confusion over which providers were in their plan’s network.
At the same time, the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC), which develops model laws and rules that states often adopt, has been working to update its network adequacy model law. Stakeholders ranging from insurers to medical providers to patient and consumer advocates are weighing in on this process, making network adequacy a hot topic in the policy arena too. Georgians for a Healthy Future has been monitoring this process through the participation of our executive director as one of the consumer representatives to the NAIC. Earlier this summer, the consumer representatives submitted comments to the NAIC focusing on developing a stronger standard and better oversight of network adequacy, an end to “balance billing” by out-of-network providers in in-network facilities, and greater transparency of provider networks.
Georgians for a Healthy Future will continue to monitor this process and will advocate at all levels, in conjunction with state and national partners, to ensure consumers have meaningful access to care.
If you are an individual consumer enrolled in a commercial health plan and the provider directory you were given was incorrect or if you have concerns about your ability to access covered services under your plan, please contact the Georgia Office of Insurance & Fire Safety, Consumer Services Division by calling (800) 656-2298 or use the Consumer Complaint Portal at www.oci.ga.gov/ConsumerService. Please also consider sharing your story with Georgians for a Healthy Future so we can get a better picture of what is happening in our state.
For more information on network adequacy, please see the following reports and resources:
From Georgetown Center on Health Insurance Reforms: Reforming State Regulation of Provider Networks: Efforts at the NAIC to Re-Draft a Model State Law
From Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and Georgetown University Health Policy Institute: ACA Implications for State Network Adequacy Standards
New from GHF!
All kids need reliable access to quality health care. Children need to see the doctor even when they are healthy: shots for school, well-child visits, and dental care are all important for kids to grow up healthy and strong. Their parents need coverage too to stay on track with regular screenings and preventive care, to access the health care system if they become sick, and to experience the financial peace of mind that comes with being covered.
Thanks to new health insurance options available through the Marketplace, the uninsured rate among parents is dropping. Still, too many of Georgia’s low-income parents fall into what has become known as the “coverage gap,” meaning they don’t earn enough to qualify for subsidized private insurance and they earn too much to qualify for Medicaid because Georgia has so far declined to join the 27 states (and counting!) who have expanded Medicaid.
In an effort to provide accurate information to parents about the coverage options for themselves and their children, GHF has created a set of fact sheets about health insurance coverage for kids and parents in Georgia. These fact sheets are intended to be a resource for individual consumers and for organizations who represent or provide services for Georgia families.
Affordable Health Care for Your Children and For Uninsured Parents help parents understand the coverage options for themselves and their children. If you work with low- to moderate-income families through a charity care clinic, at a school or church, or in a community-based organization, you may want to provide these resources to the families you serve.
Covering Kids paints a picture for policy makers and the media who want to better understand children’s health care coverage in Georgia. If you work with policy makers or want to talk to your legislators about health care coverage for kids, this fact sheet will be a helpful resource.
A fourth fact sheet serves as a reference for those who need to know the income limits for the Medicaid and PeachCare programs.
You can view and download these new fact sheets on the GHF website. If you would like hard copies to distribute to your members, clients, or community partners, please contact Laura Colbert, GHF’s Community Outreach Manager.
Action Alert—Stop HB 707!
House Bill 707 would prohibit the state of Georgia from leveraging federal dollars to cover the uninsured and from providing consumer assistance to Georgians enrolling in health insurance. HB 707 was designed and promoted by the tea party to prevent hard-working Georgians from accessing health care, and it is in danger of becoming law in Georgia. We need your voice! Georgia citizens deserve better than to have the door slammed in their face when they seek out information about how to cover themselves and their family. Our state’s struggling hospitals and uninsured citizens deserve an honest policy discussion about Medicaid expansion, not a gag order on state and local employees. Call Lt. Governor Casey Cagle at 404-656-5030 and your state senator (locate your state senator here) and ask them to oppose HB 707.
House Bill 707 would:
- Prohibit any state agency, department or political subdivision from using resources or spending funds to advocate for the expansion of Medicaid. This would stifle conversation and analysis about how to leverage federal dollars from covering the state’s uninsured.
- Prohibit the state of Georgia from running an insurance exchange or accepting federal dollars related to an exchange. This broad language could stop quality local programs that provide assistance to vulnerable Georgians getting coverage through the exchange.
- End the University of Georgia Health Navigator Program. Currently, the University of Georgia is providing enrollment assistance to consumers seeking out health insurance with federal grant money. HB 707 would prohibit UGA from sitting down with uninsured consumers and helping them enroll in a private health insurance plan.
- Prohibit the Commissioner of Insurance from investigating or enforcing any alleged violation of federal health insurance requirements mandated by the Affordable Care Act. Under HB 707, if a consumer has been treated unfairly by their health insurance company, they may have no state recourse.
HB 707 has already passed the state House of Representatives and may be up for a vote in the State Senate early next week. We need your voice to prevent this harmful bill from becoming law!
Thanks to Carolyn Ingram from the Center for Health Care Strategies for serving as the keynote speaker for Georgians for a Healthy Future’s 4th annual Health Care Unscrambled policy breakfast event! Carolyn’s presentation described opportunities for flexibility with respect to the Medicaid program and provided illuminating examples from a handful of states taking innovative approaches. Carolyn’s presentation is available here.
The following opinion piece by Georgians for a Healthy Future’s Executive Director Cindy Zeldin originally appeared in today’s Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Large majorities of young adults say they need and value health insurance, yet people in this age group are far more likely to be uninsured than children, seniors or older adults. Thirty-five percent of Georgians between 18 and 34 are uninsured. How can something so important be so elusive?
Until now, the health insurance of millenials had largely been neglected by public policy, leaving them with few options that provided adequate benefits at an affordable cost.
Most Americans get health insurance as a workplace benefit. They get a substantial employer contribution and receive these benefits on a pre-tax basis. Today’s young adults, however, are entering the job market in a tough economy. They are less likely to land jobs with health insurance. They often cobble together internships and part-time work to gain experience and make ends meet. For too many young adults, there simply has been no viable pathway to coverage.
The tide is turning. An estimated 3.1 million young adults nationwide — and 123,000 here in Georgia — have gained coverage as a direct result of an Affordable Care Act provision that allows parents to keep their children on policies up to age 26. This popular and effective public policy change was just a first step. The new health insurance exchanges will provide options for young adults who previously had nowhere to go.
These plans provide decent benefits and, in many cases, access to tax credits to make them affordable. The tax credits, available to individuals with annual incomes between $11,490 and $45,960, can be taken either at the time health insurance is purchased or at tax time. Some moderate-income individuals also can get help with out-of-pocket expenses.
For millenials who had been underwhelmed with the health insurance options available to them in the past, this is a breath of fresh air. For example, maternity coverage had been nearly impossible to secure in the Georgia non-group market for young couples ready to start a family. Now, this important benefit will be available.
While it is true some young adults enrolled in old plans may see higher premiums, many of those old plans didn’t provide adequate protection. Further, young adults who had a pre-existing chronic helath condition were locked out of the market entirely, a practice insurance companies must discontinue.
The private insurance plans available through the exchanges won’t meet the needs of all young adults in Georgia. Those who have incomes that place them below the poverty line will likely remain uninsured unless Georgia expands its Medicaid program.
Most young adults want what Americans of all ages want: the peace of mind that comes with knowing that an unexpected cancer diagnosis or accident doesn’t equal financial ruin, and that they have access to basic medical services. The new coverage options are finally leveling the playing field for this generation. It’s about time.