04 Dec 2018

Health insurance a key concern for American voters

Health insurance a key concern for American voters

The recent midterm elections have shown that American voters are more concerned with the health care system than ever before. In CNN’s 2018 exit polling, 41% of the population ranked health care as the most important issue, compared with only 25% in 2015 and a mere 18% in 2012. A Kaiser Family Foundation tracking poll further demonstrated that 71% of voters considered health care “very important” in determining which Congressional candidate to vote for in the midterms. Similarly, data from CBS News/YouGov revealed that 70% of voters in Congressional swing districts considered health care to have more of an impact on voting decisions than gun laws, the Supreme Court, immigration and even the economy.

Democratic vs. Republican Campaign Ads

In the run-up to the midterm elections, Democratic candidates seemed to have their fingers more firmly on the pulse of the people. According to the Wesleyan Media Project, Democratic ads were laser-focused on constituents’ highest priority: 44% of ads touched on health insurance with an additional 18% mentioning Medicare. Advertising information compiled by Kantar Media/CMAG found that only 21% of Republican ads mentioned health care at all.

While Republican politicians have generally been on a mission to destroy Obamacare since its inception, prior to the midterm elections they seemed to have changed their tune. Many GOP candidates tried distancing themselves from the repeated GOP attempts to “repeal and replace” Obamacare, a mantra that became further popularized in the Trump administration. But the tide seemed to have turned during the midterms: Democratic candidates urged that a vote for them was a vote to save affordable health care. They began centring their campaigns on the many attempts by their opponents to exclude patients with preexisting conditions from health coverage. And they won.

Nearly all of the votes have been counted in the midterm elections and the Democrats have netted almost 40 seats in the House of Representatives. This has undoubtedly shown just how important health care is for the average American voter and family. In some traditionally red states, like Idaho, Nebraska and Utah, voters opted for some inherently blue policies; namely, the adoption of the ACA’s expansion of the Medicaid program.

In choosing Democratic candidates, American voters have expressed one of their most fundamental concerns: for lower cost, higher quality health coverage that enables everyone to gain access to the health care that they need.

20 Feb 2018

Trump Administration Continues to Pursue Avenues to Relieve People of the ACA’s Individual Mandate

Trump Administration Continues to Pursue Avenues to Relieve People of the ACA’s Individual Mandate

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, nicknamed Obamacare, was signed into law March 2010. The act’s major provisions came into effect in 2014. It was the most sweeping health care reform in America since the passage of Medicaid and Medicare back in 1965. Major changes to the individual insurance marketplace and an expansion of Medicaid Eligibility managed to provide coverage to an estimated twenty to twenty-four million additional people during the year 2016 alone.

In spite of the benefits that have been received by millions under the act, one of the least popular provisions of the act has been the individual mandate. This is a requirement that every American who is not insured through employer-sponsored plans, Medicaid, Medicare, or other private or public program must purchase insurance or pay a tax penalty.

Republicans have been the most vocal opponents of the individual mandate and have fought tooth and nail to find ways to repeal the act altogether, and in particular, eliminate the individual mandate. The Trump administration, through the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 which was signed in December 2017, has taken a huge leap to chip away at Obamacare. The act repeals the individual mandate as of 2019.

That still leaves 2018 to be dealt with. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has endeavored to work on guidance aimed to increase the exemptions under which people would justifiably not show that they are insured when filing their year-end income tax returns. This could help scores of taxpayers who are still uninsured due to the increased cost of insurance plans under Obamacare. The IRS reports that six and a half million taxpayers paid the fine for not being insured in the year 2015.

The tax penalties can be hefty, starting at $347.50 per child, $695 for adults and going up to as high as $2,085 for a family. There is a cap of 2.5% of family income or the family maximum of $2,085 – whichever would be higher.

Currently, the exemptions to avoid paying the penalty are:

Hardship Exemptions

Those who are homeless, filed for bankruptcy, are facing eviction or a foreclosure or received a notice from a utility company that their service was being shut-off fall under the “Hardship Exemption.”  Additionally, those who suffered domestic violence, the death of a family member or a natural disaster also qualify to be exempt from the mandate.

Other hardships that also qualify for exemption consideration are; a) Tax filers who had medical expenses they couldn’t pay which resulted in substantial debt. b) Those who experienced unforeseen expenses due to caring for a family member who was aging, who was ill or was disabled. c) Your grandfathered individual insurance plan was canceled because it failed to meet the requirement for the ACA. d). Those eligible for subsidies, but the insurance company failed to provide them, and insurance was not available as a result.

Income Related Exemptions

If you don’t earn enough income during the year to be required to file a tax return, you will not have to pay a penalty.

For those whose costs of insurance, whether through a job-based or a Marketplace plan, would cost in excess of 8.16% of the household’s income, can qualify for either the Job-based affordability exemption or the Marketplace affordability exemption.

Group Membership Exemptions

Members of qualified health care sharing ministries will not face penalties.

Members of federally recognized tribes or those eligible for services through an Indian Health Services Provider are also exempt from penalties.

Exemptions Related to Health Coverage

Residents of states that did not expand its Medicaid program and the tax filer’s income falls below 138% of that state’s poverty level are exempt.

Legal Status Based Exemptions

Tax filers will not face penalties if they were incarcerated or residing abroad. U.S. Tax laws apply to all income earners, whether they are here legally or not. Undocumented immigrants must file a return if the minimum earnings threshold to file is met, however, they are excluded from the coverage requirement. They are also unable to obtain insurance through the marketplaces set up by the ACA.

Over 12 million people qualified under one or another of these exemptions for the tax year 2016. For the tax year 2017 and 2018, it will be even easier to duck the tax penalty. The Internal Revenue Service has backed off on enforcement of the mandate. Obamacare required the IRS to withhold returns if the taxpayer did not provide coverage information on the return. However, they had not enforced it rigorously. The IRS had previously announced that in the tax year 2017, they would step up enforcement, but with president Trump’s pressure, they have now retracted that statement.

It is still unclear what the final list of expanded exemptions will be, the CMS has not announced when they will complete their work on the guidance.

To learn more about qualified plans under Obamacare or Trumpcare, or additional insurance options, contact the experts at HealthQuoteInfo.com at 855-881-0430. Our licensed health insurance experts will be happy to answer any questions you have.

27 Sep 2017

Chaos on Capitol Hill – Republicans Discard Graham-Cassidy Bill

Chaos on Capitol Hill – Republicans Discard Graham-Cassidy Bill

The proposed Graham-Cassidy bill has lost support from key senior Republicans, meaning it won’t pass a vote that was expected to take place this week.

Over the course of the past 24 hours, Senator Susan Collins from Maine publically declared the bill was “deeply flawed,” according to a report by BBC News. This comes on the heels of President Donald Trump saying he would promise money to the state of Maine in a bid to incentivize Collins.

This news presents itself as a huge setback for the Trump administration and the Republican party, who’ve tried unsuccessfully for months to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. Keep in mind, Donald Trump campaigned heavily on the promise to get rid of Obamacare, and this latest information demonstrates that he’s incapable of doing so.

There were other senior Republicans who came out against the bill, which includes Sen. John McCain of Arizona and Rand Paul of Kentucky. The main reason why these high-profile senators rejected the proposal is that it slashes Medicaid funding drastically, which serves as an important lifeline for millions of impoverished Americans.

The bill was written by Sens. Bill Cassidy (Louisiana) and Lindsey Graham (South Carolina) and was seen as a last-ditch effort. This is because a previous bill called the Better Care Reconciliation Act was voted down at the beginning of summer, revealing a divide amongst the Republican party.

Details of the Graham-Cassidy bill were murky and very unclear from the beginning. According to several reports in the media, the bill would allow insurance companies to discriminate against individuals based on the pre-existing conditions, which is something Obamacare outlawed.

Public opinion also decreased dramatically for the bill, especially since talk show host Jimmy Kimmel publically condemned the bill and called out Senator Bill Cassidy for allegedly lying on television. The politician had appeared on Kimmel’s show in the past and said he would ensure a new health care bill would protect those with pre-existing conditions.

Cassidy’s appearance came shortly after Kimmel announced his newborn son was born with a rare heart condition and made a public plea that Americans deserve health care equality. A recent CBS poll also indicated that approximately 20 percent of Americans approved of the bill, while a whopping 52 percent were firmly against it.

The Senate held the first meeting on Monday to discuss the proposed bill but it was swarmed by protesters. Approximately 181 people were arrested and removed from the hearing room, while many protesters were reportedly in wheelchairs.

We understand that the health care landscape is extremely complex and confusing. If you have any questions, we strongly recommend phoning one of our agents here at HealthQuoteInfo. Simply dial 855-881-0430 and get your questions answered today!

26 Jun 2017

Health Insurance Premiums increased 105% Under Obamacare

Health Insurance Premiums increased 105% Under Obamacare

A new report released last month by the Department of Health and Human Services detailed how insurance premiums have increased under the Affordable Care Act. Between the years 2013 and 2017, premiums for individual plans increased by 105 percent. When analyzing the report, this increase applies to 39 states that were using HealthCare.gov during this five-year period. The report does not provide any specifics regarding this increase, but rather just presents the figures. By glancing at these figures, it immediately reads as if the Affordable Care Act resulted in making insurance premiums more costly for Americans. Here are a few things you should know surrounding this report.

Premiums

A premium refers to the monthly cost owed to your insurance company. The average monthly premium in 2013 was $232 for individual plans. As of 2017, the average premium costs approximately $476, which means there’s been an astronomical increase of $244, or 105 percent.

The Affordable Care Act

This is often referred to as Obamacare and was conceived by former President Barack Obama and his administration. The act was signed in 2010 and aimed at making health insurance more affordable and accessible to the American people. Before the Affordable Care Act, insurance companies could reject applicants based on age and medical history, meaning these individuals were unable to purchase basic health insurance.

Industry Consolidation

According to a report by the Brookings Institution, higher premiums are caused by industry consolidation. What does this mean exactly? It means frequent mergers and acquisitions within this sector, resulting in less competition and ultimately fewer options for Americans. It’s also very difficult for new insurance companies to enter the market due to heavy regulations and the possibility of being quickly acquired by another large company.

Exclusionary Policies

As previously mentioned, Obamacare ended the exclusionary practices of the large insurance companies, meaning they had to insure elderly individuals and those with complex medical histories. So these individuals were finally able to purchase medical insurance. Therefore, this played a small part in driving up the average cost of insurance premiums. It’s also important to note that Obamacare forced insurance companies to cover a broader spectrum of issues. This means millions of Americans now have access to maternity care, mental health counseling, and substance abuse programs.

The Trump Administration

Donald Trump has been a strong opponent of the Affordable Care Act. One of his campaign promises was to completely dismantle Obamacare once he entered the Oval Office. This has created a great deal of uncertainty in the health insurance realm, and when there’s a level of uncertainty, prices tend to increase over time. There’s also the question regarding whether the federal government will continue to subsidize Medicaid, a program for impoverished Americans who earn approximately less than $16,000 a year (depending on your state). According to HealthCare.com, if the government stopped subsidizing this program, it would lead to insurance premiums increasing by nearly 20 percent.

Overall, the Department of Health and Human Services issued a superficial report that provides the numbers, but does not provide any context. While we cannot ignore the report, it does demonstrate how health insurance is still a growing concern amongst Americans, and it’s a continuous challenge to purchase affordable health care. For more up-to-date information regarding this subject, you can always consult HealthQuoteInfo.

03 May 2017

Changes to Obamacare Enrollment

Changes to Obamacare Enrollment

The open enrollment period for the federal Health Insurance Marketplace gives many people the chance to get affordable insurance for the first time, or renew their health insurance policy for another year. The marketplace gives you the ability to pick and choose insurance plans that work best for you and your family.

Unfortunately, life gets in the way and we might not always be on top of our health insurance game. If you miss the open enrollment period for Obamacare and aren’t covered under a special enrollment period, you may want to look into short-term health insurance options. New regulations may keep you from enrolling in the marketplace if you aren’t ready to buy insurance at the end of 2017.

Short-term health coverage

The importance of short-term health insurance coverage is coming into the spotlight after new regulations regarding Obamacare were put into effect. These new regulations would make it harder to get access to the marketplace if you miss the open enrollment period. You would be locked out of insurance opportunities for part of 2018, and it would be harder to gain access to the marketplace’s insurance options if you want to enroll late.

This brings private insurance back into the insurance game. If you are unable, for some reason, to obtain insurance coverage using Obamacare, you may be able to benefit from private insurance and their short-term health insurance options. This gives you the ability to stay protected while you wait for the open enrollment period to come around again.

New regulations for Obamacare make the yearly enrollment period half as short as it was in previous years. The enrollment period for 2018 health insurance will begin on November 1, 2017, and end on December 15, 2017. For some people, this isn’t enough time to get the insurance coverage they want or need.

Changes to Obamacare

Many people are wondering why there are changes being made to Obamacare and the annual open enrollment period. As the health insurance industry changes in the United States, the Affordable Care Act offered millions of uninsured individuals the chance to be able to afford their own health insurance. This increase in insured policy holders and the creation of the federal health insurance marketplace had an impact on how insurance agencies dealt with their health insurance policy offerings.

The Obamacare market isn’t perfect. There have been higher medical claims than normal, which leads to higher rates and insurance agencies backing out of the marketplace. This destabilization is what the new regulations are hoping to get rid of. Shortening the enrollment period is designed to make people decide on their health insurance plans early, before they need health care as a matter of medical necessity.

If you find yourself locked out of the 2018 health insurance market, there are other insurance options available. Research short-term health insurance coverage in your area to make sure you maintain health insurance coverage. This gives you the chance to regain access to the 2018 health insurance market and choose the health insurance plan that works best for you and your health.

28 Feb 2017

California is Considering Adopting a Single-Payer Health Care System

California is Considering Adopting a Single-Payer Health Care System

While navigating through all available health insurance options may be a complicated and difficult process, trying to understand the future of health insurance in the United States is becoming equally confusing every day. While President Trump and the Republican party are dead-set on repealing the affordable care act, also known as Obamcare, citizens all across the country are voicing their displeasure with the uncertainty of health insurance right now.

Despite all of this uncertainty, recent news seems to indicate that the state of California is considering operating on its own and adopting a single-payer health insurance system for residents. This would be a drastic change in the way health insurance operates within the United States. Under a single-payer health care system, the state would designate one agency to serve as the main insurer for health care services. This would mean that all states residents would pay into that one agency, and the agency, in turn, would pay out to doctors and hospitals when emergency and medical care is required.

This development should come as no surprise to anyone considering progressives within California have been pushing for a single-payer health care system for the longest time. In 2006 and 2008, bills to establish a single-payer health care system were eventually vetoed by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. However, the pending Obamcare repeal and potential of millions of citizens losing health insurance galvanized those within government circles to bring about discussions of revolutionizing the health care system. Early estimates seem to indicate that the proposed change to the health care system would cost state taxpayers around $40 billion within the first year, which would make it quite a costly endeavor at the state-level without any federal funding or assistance.

It remains to be seen how far this mandate will be pushed in the coming months, but with the repeal of the Affordable Care Act on the horizon, state officials in California are exploring options to ensure access to health insurance for as many residents as possible.