Understanding Obamacare

Internal Revenue Service

In a new setback for the health care law and the people it's supposed to help, the government said Friday it made a tax-reporting error that's fouling up the filings of nearly a million Americans, including Floridians.

After a successful sign-up season, the latest goof could signal new problems with the complex links between President Barack Obama's health care overhaul and the nation's income tax system.

The deadline to buy health insurance coverage for 2015 has come and gone. But some people without insurance are just finding out now that they have to pay a tax penalty, and they're getting another chance to sign up.

Federal health officials announced Friday morning that they’re offering a new, special open enrollment period for consumers who are preparing their 2014 taxes now and figuring out that they owe a tax penalty under the Affordable Care Act.

This extra time will be for consumers to buy coverage for 2015, and avoid paying a penalty when they file their 2015 taxes.

AP

Florida has eclipsed California to become the state with the highest number of consumers buying health coverage through new insurance markets under the Affordable Care Act, according to federal statistics released Wednesday.

Federal health officials are granting a special enrollment period for consumers who unsuccessfully tried to buy health insurance before Sunday's deadline and were sidelined by long wait times or computer glitches.

Some consumers who tried to pick a health plan through HealthCare.gov or its call centers were unable to complete their application because of the high volume of callers or technical problems with income verification. If you were in line by Feb. 15, health officials are giving you until Feb. 22 to complete your application.

Ahead of the Sunday deadline to sign up for insurance on HealthCare.gov, the latest enrollment numbers show that close to 1.4 million people in Florida have signed up. That's more than any other state that uses the federal marketplace.

South Florida is home to the highest number of people signing up for Obamacare.

With just one week before the open enrollment period ends, more than 660,000 people in South Florida have gotten health insurance plans through Healthcare.gov.

Experts See Need to Improve, Simplify ACA

Feb 10, 2015
Kaiser Health News

“Repeal and replace” has been the rallying cry for Republicans since the Affordable Care Act was signed into law in 2010. But now that most of the law’s provisions have taken effect, some health experts are pitching ways to improve it, rather than eliminate it.

An ideologically diverse panel at the National Health Policy Conference Monday presented somewhat different lists of ideas to make the law work better. But they all agreed on one thing: The Affordable Care Act is too complicated.

Nearly all of the 1.3 million Floridians who signed up for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act earned tax credits averaging $297 per person, per month, according to a report released by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

As of Jan. 30, 93 percent of those enrolling earned the credits toward their monthly premiums. On average, monthly premiums for consumers dropped by 77 percent, from $384 to $88 per month, according to the report.

The stars seem to be aligning for Medicaid expansion in the Florida Legislature this year.  After two years of blunt refusals to even consider it, some top Republicans, like Miami State Sen. Anitere Flores are saying the time has come.

"And what's interesting," Flores said after a Monday  interview with the Miami Herald editorial board, "is that you have the buy-in from the business community, from the private sector, from your nontraditional supporters of government funding."

The state-run health insurance marketplace Florida Health Choices has enrolled just 66 people despite spending $75,000 on outreach efforts, the Palm Beach Post reports. 

Javier Villa has worked at his family's used car dealership in San Juan, Puerto Rico, ever since he finished high school.

Villa, 35, always assumed the insurance plan he had through work would take care of him and his family. But a couple years ago, he ran into a problem.

He was taking a shower one morning when he noticed a lump on the side of his throat. "Very big, like maybe a tennis ball," he says.

GOP Not Slowing FL Obamacare Enrollment

Feb 3, 2015

When Florida workers promoting President Barack Obama's health care marketplace want instant feedback, they go to an online "heat map." The map turns darker green where they've seen the most people and shows bright red dots for areas where enrollment is high.

"The map shows us where the holes are" and what communities need to be targeted next, said Lynn Thorp, regional director of the Health Planning Council of Southwest Florida. She hands out information about the health care marketplace at rodeos, farmers markets, hockey games and almost any place where people gather.

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It flew through the Republican-run House in 2012, and a year later 79 of the Democratic-led Senate's 100 members embraced it. With Republicans now controlling both chambers of Congress, the chances for repealing the 2.3 percent tax on medical devices are better than ever.

Yet abolishing the tax won't be easy, even though Republicans rank it a top priority and are backed by Democrats from states that rely on the industry for jobs.

Odalys Arevalo works out of a shopping mall but she doesn't sell clothes or electronics or jewelry. She sells health insurance. And when it comes to the Affordable Care Act, she and her team of 600 brokers sell a lot of it.

Arevalo is co-founder of Sunshine Life and Health Advisors. The idea for the company began in a coffee shop. Operations started with a single mall kiosk and now the firm has eight outlets, including a 24,000 square feet "store" at the Mall of the Americas in Miami-Dade County.

Florida continues to lead every other state using the federal marketplace health insurance marketplace, with just over 1.3 million who were enrolled or were automatically re-enrolled in a health plan as of Jan. 23.

The high numbers are due to high demand, federal health officials say.

U.S. Senate

In a rare show of bipartisanship over President Barack Obama's health care law, a Senate committee voted unanimously Wednesday to exclude veterans from the 50-worker threshold that triggers required coverage for employees under that statute.

The Senate Finance Committee vote was 26-0, a departure from the usual party-line fights over Obama's showcase 2010 law.

Tampa General Hospital

Hillsborough County hospitals are scheduled to lose more than $151 million a year in funds for care of the uninsured beginning June 30, according to a report released Thursday.

The scheduled changes to two revenue streams “represent a tremendous loss of federal funding to the county and pose a significant risk,” warns the report by the Community Justice Project, part of Florida Legal Services.

Statewide, the coming annual loss will be $2.1 billion, estimates co-author Charlotte Cassel.

Carol Gentry / Health News Florida

With open enrollment for health insurance ending in just two weeks, the push is on to get everyone who qualifies signed up. But some of the uninsured are balking, and it’s not only the so-called “young invincibles” who think they don’t need it.

Gary Babcock of Clearwater, for example, is neither young nor invincible.  He’s 55, with diabetes so severe he has to give himself daily insulin shots.

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At his income level, he could choose from several Affordable Care Act plans with no premium, fully subsidized.

 A ZIP code in Hialeah has had more people enroll in a health plan on HealthCare.gov than any other place in the country using the federal exchange, the Miami Herald reports. As of mid-January, 12,330 people in Hialeah’s 33012 ZIP Code had signed up for an insurance plan.

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell says her agency is open to negotiating with states that have not expanded their Medicaid programs to more people.

Are you thinking about tax day yet? Your friendly neighborhood tax preparer is. IRS Commissioner John Koskinen declared this tax season one of the most complicated ever, partly because this is the first year that the Affordable Care Act will show up on your tax form.

Tax preparers from coast to coast are trying to get ready. Sue Ellen Smith manages an H&R Block office in San Francisco, and she is expecting things to get busy soon.

"This year taxes and health care intersect in a brand-new way," Smith says.

Not only do more Americans have health insurance, but the number struggling with medical costs has dropped since President Barack Obama's health care law expanded coverage, according to a study released Thursday.

The Commonwealth Fund's biennial health insurance survey found that the share of U.S. adults who did not get needed care because of cost dropped from 43 percent in 2012 to 36 percent last year, as the health care law's main coverage expansion went into full swing.

Federal health officials say 1,190,922 Floridians have signed up for health insurance through the federal marketplace since this year’s open enrollment period started.

That figure announced Wednesday is by far the most in any state using the federal health care marketplace and includes first-time enrollees and some who are renewing their insurance this year.

Georgetown Health Policy Institute

Florida’s “safety-net” hospitals – the ones that provide the most charity care -- received another in a series of depressing projections Wednesday in a report from Florida Legal Services.  

Taken together, the three reports issued to date by the patient-advocacy organization describe a pending loss of $2 billion a year to the state’s health-care providers for the poor. Federal funding that has propped them up is scheduled to end June 30, Florida Legal Services said.

If you're among the millions of consumers who got financial help for health insurance last year under President Barack Obama's law, better keep an eye on your mailbox.

The administration said Monday it has started sending out tax reporting forms that you'll need to fill out your 2014 return. Like W-2s for health care, they're for people who got health insurance tax credits provided under the law.

Health care advocates gathered across Florida today — in Orlando, Tampa, Tallahassee, and Miami — calling on the state to accept federal funds and expand its Medicaid program.

A handful of people gathered in outside the Stephen P. Clark Government Center in Miami, several with big black circles painted under their eyes, making them appear sickly. Others wore face masks with slogans like “no coverage equals death” written on them.

Black and Hispanic Floridians are signing up for insurance on HealthCare.gov in big numbers.

Since enrollment for 2015 coverage began Nov. 15, more than 673,000 state residents have signed up on the federal marketplace. And the leader of the state's largest effort to recruit and assist people in enrollment said Thursday that 30 percent of the people they've helped so far are Hispanic. Another 25 percent are African American.

The Affordable Care Act requires that everyone who can afford health insurance should buy it – or there’s a penalty on their federal taxes.

H & R Block, a major player in the tax-preparation industry, decided to open its doors Thursday to answer questions for those who wonder if they owe money or should be worried about it.

Nearly a million Floridians found coverage through the federal marketplace last year. Many others, who could have but didn't bother, may have to pay up as part of their federal income tax filing, due April 15.

Sign-ups under President Barack Obama's health care law grew slowly but steadily over the New Year's holiday, as the share of Americans still lacking coverage hit its lowest level in years.

The Obama administration reported Wednesday that nearly 103,000 people signed up last week in the 37 states where the federal government is running online health insurance markets, bringing total enrollment for 2015 to 6.6 million in those states. The remaining states are running their own exchanges.

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