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Health Insurance

Unaffordable Health Care By Any Other Name

Women make up a large majority of the low wage workforce — many without access to affordable health insurance . The Affordable Care Act was supposed to change that. However, for millions of women and their families, something called the “family glitch” puts help with insurance premiums out of reach. But it really isn’t a glitch  because the IRS could have interpreted the law differently.

If you have access to health insurance coverage outside the health insurance marketplace (if you have coverage through your employer or a public insurance program such as Medicaid), then you are not eligible for the health insurance tax credits. But there is a special rule for employment based coverage – if your employer offers coverage that is unaffordable or doesn’t provide enough coverage, then you can say no to your employer coverage and enroll in the marketplace with a health insurance tax credit (if you’re otherwise eligible for the tax credit). Read more »

It Works! New Data on Health Insurance and the New Health Care Law

If you had any doubt that the new health care law is helping women and their families get health insurance – and given the Chicken Little-level hysteria that seems to still affect critics of the new law, you can be forgiven for harboring a few doubts – a new survey released yesterday should calm those fears. According to Gallup, the uninsured rate for adults in states that have implemented both major coverage components of the Affordable Care Act has fallen, on average, 2.5 percentage points in the first three months of full implementation. These 21 states and the District of Columbia, which expanded coverage through Medicaid and established their own health insurance marketplaces (including those running “partnership” marketplaces), have widened the gap in average rates of uninsurance between themselves and states that have not taken both of these steps. Read more »

Governor of Maine Denies Healthcare for 70,000 Mainers

Last week, Governor LePage blocked health coverage to hardworking Maine residents by vetoing a bill that would have provided Medicaid to 70,000 people.

Maine is one of 24 states that have not taken federal funding to cover more people in Medicaid. Under the health care law, women and their families in every state are eligible for tax credits to help them afford health insurance, depending on their family income. In states that accept federal money to expand coverage through Medicaid, people with lower incomes will also have affordable coverage. But in states that turn down the money, people with lower incomes (and those who do not meet other strict eligibility criteria) will not get any financial help for health insurance costs. That’s the “coverage gap” too many women and families are facing right now. Read more »

Making Insurance Work for Seven Million and Counting

In case you haven’t heard – over seven million Americans have enrolled in private health insurance thanks to the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The numbers are still coming in, so this number will continue to grow as state-based Marketplaces as well as Medicaid and CHIP enrollment is added up. The numbers alone tell a great success story, but some news reports are quibbling about whether these numbers reflect previously uninsured Americans or people choosing to switch plans.

The goal of the health care law is to ensure that everyone has access to high-quality health insurance that fits their budget. Before the law, many people didn’t have any health insurance and others – women, in particular – paid high premiums for skimpy coverage.

Women who already had health insurance have a lot to gain by purchasing their coverage through the new Marketplaces. The individual market has long discriminated against women by charging them higher premiums just because they’re women and excluding coverage of important services like maternity care. Now, women no longer have to worry that they will be denied coverage because of a pre-existing condition or dropped from coverage when they get sick. They will know that their coverage won’t run out when they need it most and they won’t have to worry that burdensome out-of-pocket expenses will prevent them from receiving the care they need. Read more »

Think You Can't Afford Health Insurance? Think Again!

Most people shopping for health insurance through the Obamacare Marketplace will be eligible for financial assistance—called the Premium Tax Credit—to help them cover the cost of insurance. We’re talking real help—the average amount of financial assistance per family is estimated to be $5,290. Time is running out to sign up this year—the deadline to get started is next Monday, March 31! Read on to get answers to some commonly asked questions about the Premium Tax Credit—and then dash on over to healthcare.gov or call (800) 318-2596 and get started on your application today!

Am I eligible? 

There are three basic eligibility requirements for the Premium Tax Credit:

  1. Your income must be between 100%-400% of the federal poverty line (for a family of four, that’s an income between $23,550 and $94,200).
  2. You must buy health insurance through the Marketplace (sometimes called Exchange)—either by visiting www.healthcare.gov or calling (800) 318-2596. 
  3. To receive the Premium Tax Credit, you can’t be eligible for other health insurance coverage—either through another government program like Medicaid or Medicare, or through your employer.

Virginia Lawmakers Must Act Now and Cover More People in Medicaid

Each week, my colleague Stephanie Glover and I take a short trip to Arlington to volunteer as Certified Application Counselors (CACs). We talk to Virginians about the health coverage options available under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and help them enroll in an affordable comprehensive insurance plan. It is very exciting to meet new clients each week—all of whom are uninsured—who are eager to learn about their options and obtain coverage.

The best part of the experience is enrolling a previously uninsured family into health insurance that meets their needs and fits their budget. Clients leave the office happy and incredibly thankful to the volunteers. The worst part of this experience is telling clients that, unfortunately, they are not eligible to enroll today. I try to explain they are not eligible to enroll in a private plan because their income is below the poverty level which means they do not qualify for federal subsidies and yet they earn too much income (or fail to meet other eligibility criteria) to qualify for Virginia’s current Medicaid program.

Because Virginia is one of 26 states that have not taken federal funding to cover more people in Medicaid, hundreds of thousands of residents fall into this “coverage gap.” Most clients are confused and do not understand why they cannot enroll—they have all of their tax paperwork and other documentation with them, and are ready to complete the process. They leave the office frustrated and disappointed. Some ask what they should do in the meantime. Others say they will check with the Medicaid office in the summer to see if anything has changed. Read more »

Health Insurance — A Rite of Spring for 2014

The start of spring brings some seasonal maternal responsibilities. My daughter is six, so these tasks include finding the shin guards and cleats that she dumped in a closet after the last soccer game last fall – ideally before the first spring soccer game, not after. Determining if she has outgrown all, or only half, of her warmer-weather clothes. Helping her finally ride her bike with confidence, and without training wheels.

I expect that as kids get older, these springtime responsibilities might change a bit. Maybe I will need to nudge her to keep working on a year-end project or to practice before the spring piano recital. Or to use some caution and common sense during a spring break trip to the beach. Read more »

Survivors of Domestic Violence Gain Access to Health Insurance Tax Credits

Today, the Administration took important steps to ensure that survivors of domestic violence can access affordable health care. Many survivors of domestic violence have been unable to access the health insurance subsidies because they file separate tax returns from their abusive spouse. As of today, these individuals have access to a special enrollment period until May 31 to enroll in coverage and access the health insurance subsidies [PDF].

There is still more to be done. Women in other complicated circumstances are still unable to access the health insurance subsidies. For example, a woman who was abandoned and has no contact with her spouse will not be able to file a joint tax return. Some married couples have been separated for years without any formal legal separation or divorce and may no longer be in contact. Earlier this week, the National Women’s Law Center sent a letter signed by 49 organizations asking for survivors of domestic violence, abandoned spouses and individuals in other complicated circumstances to have access to the health insurance subsidies.   Read more »

Enroll By March 31: It's a Slam Dunk

I used to fill out a March Madness bracket as part of the office pool. I had no idea what I was doing. The first year, I had to ask my office mate what the numbers on the bracket meant. I took a chance though. I guessed what would happen. I always lost my dollar.

There are certain things we shouldn’t leave to chance. That includes our health. Guessing as to whether we will need health insurance means taking a chance on our health and our economic stability. If you guess that you don’t need health insurance, then what happens if you get in an accident on the basketball court? A recent study found that, in 2012:

  • Over 8,000 people were hospitalized because of basketball injuries
  • Over half a million people were treated in the emergency room due to basketball injuries.
  • The average medical costs of treating a leg fracture, one of the most common injuries on the basketball court, are about $3,400. The average costs for an arm fracture are over $7,500.

7 Days, 7 Reasons: Why You Should Sign Up For Affordable Health Coverage

This is the last week of open enrollment for the new healthcare marketplaces. That means you only have 7 days to sign up for an affordable health plan and #getcovered. So I suggest heading over to healthcare.gov right now, before it’s too late. But if you need more convincing, I’ve got 7 reasons why you should sign up for affordable health coverage before the March 31st deadline.

  1. It’s cheap: Duke may have lost, messing up everyone’s bracket, but with subsidies available to help you purchase coverage, you can afford to buy health insurance AND pay into your office March Madness pool. Seriously. 6 out of 10 Americans can get coverage for less than $100 a month.
  2. You’ll Get Preventive Services without Cost Sharing: Admit it, you love getting things you don’t have to pay extra for. Gift bags at the makeup counter, samples at Costco, free shipping from Amazon… And it’s even better when it’s something you actually need.  If you sign up for coverage you’ll be able to get important services like well women visits, pap smears, STD screenings, and contraception with no out-of-pocket costs.