Treasury Dept. Wording Could Exclude Millions from Health Care Benefits
Tuesday, April 17, 2012
(graphic: Affordable Housing Institute)
As many as four million Americans could wind up without health care benefits if a new federal rule is implemented as interpreted by the Treasury Department, warned consumer advocates, doctors and Democratic lawmakers.
Under the healthcare reform act adopted by Congress, low- and moderate-income employees can opt out of their employer’s coverage if it proves to be too costly to afford. In these cases, Americans are supposed to be eligible for federal subsidies that allow them to purchase their own coverage through state-based exchanges.
More than 100 advocacy groups, including March of Dimes and Easter Seals, have signed a letter arguing that a new regulation being developed by the Department of the Treasury would create a loophole through which 3.9 million dependents would slip and lose access to health insurance.
The rule says workers and their families can’t receive the subsidies if an employer’s plan consumes less than 9.5% of their household income. The problem with this threshold, critics contend, is it’s based on how much employees would pay to cover themselves and not the cost of covering their entire family.
According to First Focus Campaign for Children, which initiated the letter, “While individual-only employer-sponsored health insurance costs average around $5,400 a year, annual costs for family coverage average $15,000 – nearly triple. As a result, this ‘Families Glitch’ would likely deny tax credits to, and therefore leave health insurance unaffordable for, hundreds of thousands of children, as well as their non-employee parents.”
The rule is supported by employer groups and insurance brokers.
-Noel Brinkerhoff, David Wallechinsky
To Learn More:
Advocates Fear Tax-Credit Rule Will Exclude Some From Health-Care Benefit (by Julie Appleby, Kaiser Health News)
100+ National and State Advocates Say Fix the ACA Families Glitch (First Focus Campaign for Children)
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