Federal income taxes are due Monday, May 17, and now there are some changes, including tax credit eligibility, that can benefit people who have signed up for health insurance through the Affordable Care Act.
The most recent federal stimulus bill included a tax credit that will mean more people can afford health insurance through the ACA. Most people who have a health insurance plan through the ACA Marketplace can save money, according to the experts, and those who did not qualify for tax credits formerly now may be able to receive them.
Jason Spacek, vice president for corporate initiatives at Blue KC, said in some cases, the additional funding available wipes out the cost of the premium. Cost-sharing or premium subsidies may be available to consumers, based on their income level.
Spacek invited people who want to know more information to go to the Blue Cross-Blue Shield of Kansas City website on the ACA changes. Websites include www.bluekc.com/, acabluekc.com/qualify, and https://www.bluekc.com/consumer/blue-kc/articles/139.html.
He said a CMS analysis suggested that the average person could save $50 to $85 a month, “pretty significant savings over what they are already receiving.”
Those who already have a Blue KC ACA individual and family plan can update their Marketplace applications to receive tax credits and reduce their premiums through the rest of the year. The special enrollment period runs through Aug. 15.
People who are enrolled in ACA Marketplace insurance plans can wait until they file taxes next year to get the added premium tax credit, according to Blue Cross-Blue Shield of KC information. If they take action before Aug. 15, they may be able to choose a plan with lower out-of-pocket costs, and retroactive tax credits should still be there when they do their taxes, according to Blue Cross-Blue Shield of KC information.
When ACA first passed, subsidies were available to families with incomes of up to 400 percent of the federal poverty level, around $51,000, Spacek said. Lower incomes had more access to subsidies.
With the passage of the American Rescue Plan Act under the Biden administration in March, the 400 percent poverty level cap was lifted and subsidy access was opened up. Now there is no upper income limit for the federal poverty level, he said.
The new legislation also enriched subsidies at every level, he said.
The new legislation appears to be getting health insurance access out to more people, he said. It is giving health care access to more individuals and making it more affordable to more Americans, he said.
In Kansas, 9.2 percent of the population is uninsured, and in Missouri, 10.1 percent is uninsured, according to statistics from the Kaiser Family Foundation.
In Kansas, 34 percent of the uninsured are now eligible for a free bronze plan after tax credits in 2021, under the ARPA changes, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation analysis. In Missouri, the figure is 27 percent of the uninsured, according to the Kaiser foundation analysis.
Spacek said Blue KC as a local health care insurance provider has a vested interest in committing to providing affordable access to health insurance. A huge part of that is making sure health care and health insurance are available to everyone possible, he said.
His current message is to make sure people know that health care coverage is more affordable than people may think it is. There are many different types of plans, to meet different needs, he added.
Spacek said the biggest barrier to getting health insurance continues to be cost. The subsidies historically have been generous, but if you’re struggling to make ends meet, any cost is prohibitive in starting a policy, he said.
He is optimistic that more people will be getting health insurance now than previously, he said.
Besides addressing cost, they also have to make people aware that the lower costs and subsidies are available. While awareness about ACA has grown, making people aware that there are now more dollars available to offset the cost of coverage is another hurdle, he added.
One provision of ARPA extended the deadline for open enrollment in ACA to Aug. 15. Usually the enrollment period is fall to December. The window now is pretty wide open to give people the opportunity to make coverage choices, he said.
Another important point is that even if people enrolled last fall and got coverage set up, they still have the opportunity to go through and check their plans to see if they now have more access to subsidies, he said.
He said he encouraged individuals to see what is available now that was not available previously.
“They might be pleasantly surprised,” he said.
Spacek said Blue KC also offers the Spira Care line, with access to primary care, behavioral services, X-rays, lab services and other services at one location. There is a Spira Care location in Kansas City, Kansas, at 9800 Troup Ave.
A note on the ACA Marketplace website advises people to call their insurance company before changing plans or adding another person to the plan to see if they will need to start over to meet the new plan’s deductible.
Health savings are available from all health insurance plans, including those from other companies, on the ACA Marketplace.
More information from Blue KC is available at www.bluekc.com/, acabluekc.com/qualify, and https://www.bluekc.com/consumer/blue-kc/articles/139.html.
Individuals also may find out information about how they might qualify for more savings on the ACA Marketplace online at www.healthcare.gov/.