Estimate Your Heath Insurance Tax Credit

Get Covered America has developed an easy calculator to help people quickly estimate how much of a tax credit an individual or a family will receive under the Affordable Care Act, to help pay for health insurance.

The tax credit is available for individuals making up to about $44,000 per year and for a family of four, a household income up to about $92,000 per year. The amount of the tax credit will depend on the amount of money you make.

So click here and use the calculator to help you determine your tax credit. 

To sign up for insurance on the Health Insurance Exchange click here.

 

 

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Health Care Sign-Ups Increase Dramatically

Data was released Monday by the Federal Department of Health and Human Services regarding how many people signed up to purchase health insurance through the Health Insurance Exchange, through December 28.  The numbers were very impressive considering the problems with the website that occurred beginning October 1st, 2013 the first day that people could sign up for insurance. 

As of December 28, 2.2 million signed up for health insurance across the country, including 75,000 Michigan residents.  This is a pretty amazing number of people, considering that only 365,000 had signed up in October and November.

Its very clear that the interest and demand for health insurance amongst the uninsured was always there.  The problem was the website that was poorly designed and couldn't handled the volume of traffic.  But once the website, www.healthcare.gov, was dramatically improved by the end of November, then the sign-ups surged.

There is around 45 million Americans without health insurance, including over 1 million in Michigan so it doesn't surprise me the least that ounce affordable, quality health insurance became available that vast numbers of people would take advantage of the opportunity to get health care coverage.  If you don't have good health for yourself or your kids, life can be pretty difficult.  And one of the key reasons that we needed health care reform in this country that led to the enactment of the Affordable Care Act, is that 50% of all bankruptcies in this country are due to medical bills.

The other big concern was that young adults wouldn't sign up for health insurance because they think there are invincible or wouldn't be responsible enough to make the smart decision to obtain health care. Well the December 28 figures disprove that notion - about 25% of all the people that signed up were young adults between 18 - 35 years old.

But these enrollment numbers are only the initial set of figures.  The 6 month enrollment window runs to the end of March 2014.  I fully expect that millions more Americans will sign up by the end of March. There's always an element of human nature to wait to the last minute to pay for taxes or in this case sign up for health insurance.

So encourage people that you know that don't have insurance to go to the Health Insurance Exchange website www.healthcare.gov, do the proper research to figure out what health care plan makes sense, how much of a tax credit the person might be eligible to receive to help pay for the health insurance and then sign-up!

Its a great feeling that if you or your children get sick, then you can go see a doctor immediately and get the care you need and know that its not going to bankrupt you!  

 

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Many Uninsured Don't Realize Financial Help is Available to Purchase Health Inurance

A recent poll was released by Enroll America and conducted by PerryUndem, that indicated that despite all the media coverage of the roll out of the Affordable Care Act and all the problems with the initial Exchange website, that a huge number of uninsured people (69%) do not realize that financial support is available to them to purchase health insurance.

The irony is that the number one reason that uninsured people give in this same survey as to why they currently do not have health coverage is because they can't afford it!

This means that we have to continue to educate people and spread information that a tax credit is available for individuals making up to about $44,000 per year and for families of four making about $92,000 per year. This tax credit is provided "up-front" to help people with cash flow concerns to help pay for the health insurance. The amount of the tax credit credit depends on how much income the individual or household earns and is reported for tax purposes. When you go on the marketplace Exchange at www.healthcare.gov, the website will ask you some questions about your family size and income and it will calculate what your tax credit will be. This will help you determine what the real cost of the health insurance you are looking at purchasing. 

But if uninsured people don't even know that financial help is available to partially off-set the stated price of insurance plans, then many people are missing out on purchasing quality insurance at very affordable prices. 

So please as you talk to your friends, neighbors and just people you bump into on your daily routine, tell them that health insurance is available on the Exchange and that individuals that make $44,000 or less or families that have a household income of $92,000 or less can get a rebate on their taxes to help pay for health insurance. It's a great deal!

The Exchange website is at www.healthcare.gov. 

  

 

 

 

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Affordable Care Act Will Promote Small Business Growth

One of the intended benefits of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), is to enable would-be entrepreneurs to start their own businesses. Many people would like to get out on their own and start their own business but won't because they remain with their current employer because they have health benefits. This phenomenon is called "job lock."

Until the ACA was enacted, the cost of obtaining health insurance on your own or with a small business is very expensive. But with the start up of the health insurance exchanges beginning in January 2014, the hope is that a more competitive market for health insurance will be created and individuals and small business will have increased opportunities to obtain quality but affordable health insurance.

In addition under the ACA right now, small business with 25 full time equivalent employees or less can receive a 35% tax credit for offering health insurance and this will go up to 50% in January 2014. 

According to the Kauffman-RAND Institute for Entrepreneurship Public Policy, the Affordable Care Act could increase the number of US businesses by 33% over the next several years.

The Wall Street Journal does a nice job explaining "job lock" and how the ACA could enable people to start their own business and follow their dreams. Click here for the article.   

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Data Shows Hospitals Charge Widely Varying Amounts for Same Procedure

Data is being released today that shows how much hospitals charge Medicare for various medical procedures. The data shows that hospitals charge widely varying amounts for the same procedure which raises obvious questions about how hospitals determine the prices they charge and why they can can differ so much.

In major articles in todays New York Times and the Washington Post, they highlight that this difference in price can occur within the same region or even the same area or city. The data is being released by the federal Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Jonathan Blum, the Director of the Agency's Center for Medicare, says that "Our goal is to make this information more transparent." 

One observation of this data is that people who are not yet on Medicare or do not have health insurance but go to a hospital for a procedure, are charged a lot more for that procedure than those with health insurance. And thats because insurance companies can bargain down the price but those without insurance cannot because they have no leverage. 

One goal of the Affordable Care Act is to inform the public on this type of information in an effort to reform the health care delivery system to be more efficient in saving money but still providing quality care. 

Read the article in todays New Your Times by clicking here.

The Washington Post article is here. You can see the wide variance in price within Michigan by looking at the Post article.  

Read the government data. 

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Expanding Medicaid is Good for Business

Governor Snyder needs to step up and be a leader and educate the Republican legislators and particularly the Speaker of the House Jase Bolger that expanding Medicaid is good for Michigan but particularly good for the business community.  By expanding Medicaid in Michigan, the Federal Government will send an additional $1.5 to $2 billion a year to Michigan to pay 100% of the cost of expansion. The Feds will cover 100% of the cost of expansion for three full years and then after the percentage will decline slightly but will go no lower than 90%.

Now some people scoff at the idea of the Feds sending 'money' to Michigan as somehow this money is fake and not real. But the reality is that this money is actually federal tax money that Michiganders send to Washington and previously we wouldn't get it back to Michigan, but now we will.

This influx of money will act as an economic stimulus to our State's economy. It will pay for providing health care to 500,000 Michigan citizens, who currently do not have health insurance. But what this really means is that this money will go to the business community to provide this service. To provide health care to 500,000 more people means that new jobs will have to be created including more doctors, more nurses and more support staff. And lets not forget all the businesses that feed off the health care sector. The bottom line is that by expanding Medicaid not only will thousands of people see the quality of their life improve by being able to obtain health care but a lot more economic activity will be generated in Michigan.

But Speaker Bolger and the other Republican legislators don't get this, which is frankly astounding. All Speaker Bolger can say is his defense of doing nothing is that the "Federal Government has a history of pulling back from its promises." Maybe thats right or maybe thats wrong, but its completely irrelevant because the Federal Government has already publicly stated that States that expand Medicaid now, will be allowed to discontinue the program in the future if the Federal Government reneges on its financial commitment.

So its time for Governor Snyder to lead. When I served in the Legislature, if Governor John Engler thought a policy made sense he would educate and convince the Republican legislators as well as Democrats to support it. Governor Snyder must do the same. 

 

 

 

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President Obama Says ACA is Working and Changes Won't Be Widespread

President Obama says the implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is "working fine" and that for the 85% of Americans that already have health insurance, they won't be effected much at all when the final provisions of the ACA take effect in January 2014. He obviously recognizes that with the implementation of any major law and policy there are always some minor glitches.

So its important for health care advocates, medical providers and employers to learn as much as they can about the ACA and work with the appropriate officials, primarily Health and Human Services to work out what ever problems crop up.

Read the full article in the New York Times here.  

 

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Blue Cross Signs New Deal With Trinity Health That Will Lower Costs

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan signed a new agreement with Trinity Health's 12 Michigan hospitals that according to both parties, will result in lower costs to patients and eventually less expensive insurance premiums. This new contract is encouraging these hospitals to reduce costs by eliminating redundant medical tests and unnecessary office visits. The hospitals would then be rewarded with a share of the cost savings.

These new kind of arrangements are the result of the Affordable Care Act which is pushing to drive down costs by changing how hospitals and insurance companies operate.

For the full article click here 

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