Nearly 255,000 Kansans will be eligible for tax credits to help purchase health insurance next year, according to a report released today.
The credits are part of the Affordable Care Act, major provisions of which take effect Jan. 1, 2014.
“These tax-credit subsides are a game changer,” said Ron Pollack, executive director at Families USA, the national consumer group that commissioned the report, which is titled “Help Is at Hand: New Health Insurance Tax Credits in Kansas.”
Pollack said the credits would "make health coverage affordable for huge numbers of uninsured families who would have been priced out of the health coverage and care they need. They’ll also provide substantial cost relief for people who are buying health coverage on their own and who are finding it to be increasingly unaffordable.”
Similar reports have been compiled by the organization for all 50 states and Washington, D.C.
Help is at Hand
Under the Affordable Care Act, almost all Americans who can afford it will be required to either have health insurance or pay a penalty.
The tax credits, which will vary according to household size and income, are intended to help ensure access to affordable coverage.
Among the findings in today's Kansas-specific report:
• 254,780 men, women and children living in households at or below 400 percent of the federal poverty level, will be eligible for a tax credit.
• More than half the households – 54 percent – will have incomes between 200 percent and 400 percent of the poverty guideline.
• The vast majority of the households – 91 percent – will include one or more employed adults.
• Almost 60 percent of those eligible for a tax credit will be 34 years old or younger. Nearly 75 percent will be white and non-Hispanic.
• More than half – 54 percent - of those eligible for a tax credit will live in eight of the state’s 105 counties: Butler, Douglas, Harvey, Johnson, Miami, Sedgwick, Shawnee and Wyandotte.
The findings were based on U.S. Census Bureau data.
'Deeply into the middle class'
Pollack said that a currently uninsured, four-person family with an annual income of $94,200 would be below 400 percent of the poverty line and would be eligible for a tax credit.
“These subsides are going to be reaching very deeply into the middle class,” he said.
Higher-income households would be eligible for lesser subsidies than lower-income households.
“There will be a sliding scale based on income,” he said. “Assistance will be targeted to those who need it the most.”
Pollack said the tax-credit amounts would be paid directly to the health plan chosen by the eligible individual or family. The plans, he said, must be part of the health insurance exchanges now being set up in all 50 states.
“Every state, including Kansas, will have a new health insurance exchange or ‘marketplace’ that will make it easier for individuals and families to buy health insurance,” he said. “These marketplaces may all look different, but they’ll all help people find the coverage that meets their needs.”
He urged Kansas to develop a “robust outreach program” to help consumers navigate the marketplace and take advantage of the tax credit.
“There will need to be a network of assisters who can provide in-person, one-on-one help to anyone who needs it,” Pollack said.
As yet, Kansas doesn’t have an outreach program or an exchange. Kansas is among the states that have elected to let the federal government run their exchanges.
“Sometime this summer, the federal government will launch an outreach and education program, but we don’t know what it’s going to look like or how it’s going to work,” said Anna Lambertson, executive director of the Kansas Health Consumer Coalition.
“Until we do, it’s hard to know what the role of consumer groups’ is going to be," she said. "We’re all waiting on pins and needles because over and over national surveys have shown that the vast majority of the American public still doesn’t understand how the Affordable Care Act is going to affect them.”
Last month, the Kansas Insurance Department announced that it had “no money” for mounting a statewide informational campaign.
“It’s not going to do much good for there to be a subsidy if people don’t know it’s there,” Lambertson said.
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