by Chris Huckins Google+ Email 

 

Health Insurance 101

25 November 2014

3 Easy Steps to Get Health Insurance Subsidies

Posted in Health Insurance 101

3 Easy Steps to Get Health Insurance Subsidies

Want help paying for health insurance? To meet the qualifications for free money from the government (yes, FREE, but not the sketchy kind of free), start with an insurance plan that's labeled "Covered California". It helps if you have a Certified Covered California Agent along the way. 

Covered California is a marketplace for health insurance. Like most supermarkets carry big brand foodstuffs, Covered California has recognizable plans from Anthem, Kaiser, Healthnet, and more. While most Ralphs shoppers don't need a mayonnaise broker, insurance is more complicated.

The first step to save on health insurance is to help near you in the form of a Covered California Insurance Agent. Even if you end up not qualifying for financial assistance, an agent can still enroll you or shop around for more choices. 

Secondly, start the application. Reporting the correct number of people in the household, even if one person is getting insurance, is an essential step. A good tip to accurately account for each person is to include everyone who's on your tax return.

Remember to estimate your household's gross annual income (before taxes) for the year you're getting insurance. Since it's always the future you'll be dealing with, you have to estimate your annual income to the best of your knowledge. You can adjust this amount later in the year if you lose or earn more.

Third step is a big one: discover how much you can save at the end of the application, thank your Covered California Certified Agent and walk out without paying anything. You're not stealing. Enrollment is free!

The following income levels to qualify for Covered California health insurance subsidies are approximate:

 Chart by Covered California

If you're shopping just for yourself, you qualify for subsidies if you earn a gross annual income between $16,105 and $46,680.

For a household of 2, the combined income should be somewhere between $21,708 and $62,290 to qualify for subsidies.

If there are 3, the household income must be between $27.311 and $$79,160.

A household of 4 qualifies if the reported annual income is between $32,913 and $95,400.

5 in a household must make between $38,516 and $111,640 to qualify for subsidies.

Simple, right? Now go make more babies and/or money so you can get financial aid and high quality health insurance from Covered California. Pass the mayo. 

19 September 2014

How Much Will I Owe Obamacare for Not Having Health Insurance?

Posted in Health Insurance 101

How Much Will I Owe Obamacare for Not Having Health Insurance?

I don’t wanna wait for the next open enrollment.
I want to get a plan. What will it be? 
I don’t wanna wait for the next open enrollment.
Will I enroll or will I pay… a penalty?
Doo doo doo doo doo. Doo doo doo doo doo.

Yes that was the theme of Dawson’s Creek. Why does an Obamacare blog reference an 11-year old melodrama whose star recently became a vaccine spokesman? That’s one reason. Obamacare covers all vaccines so your insurance company doesn't charge you. What happens if you don’t have insurance? Not only will you pay out of pocket at the next doctor's visit, but you’ll owe the IRS on your next tax returns. Wait, what?

Doo doo doo doo doo.

It’s neither too early to prepare for flu season nor Obamacare’s next open enrollment period, which starts and ends the same time: November 15 – February 15. Coincidence? It's a chance to get insurance if you haven't had coverage all year. If you didn't carry health insurance in 2014, you must pay a fine (tax) on your upcoming tax return.

Under the Affordable Care Act, Americans who buy health insurance plans that comply with Obamacare are exempt from paying the fine also known as the “individual shared responsibility payment”.

Health insurance plans with minimal essential coverage include:

Health insurance you purchase individually or as a family

Health insurance from the Exchange (Covered California in this state)

Health insurance from a student health plan

Health insurance from work

Coverage under government organizations: Medicare, Medicaid, CHIP

(Complete list of minimal essential coverage plans)

They do not include:

Workers’ compensation

Standalone dental or vision insurance

Disability income insurance

Plans that provide limited benefits

(Complete list of plans without minimal essential coverage)

But if you experienced a financial hardship, are a member of a recognized Native American Tribe, or you just don’t have to file a tax return, you’re excluded from owing the shared responsibility payment.

(Complete list of Obamacare exemptions)

Even kids under 18 and seniors are subject to the Obamacare tax. That tax will depend on your income, family size, and each month you didn’t have insurance.

For the first year, you could owe whichever is greater:

  • $95 per adult without insurance and $47.50 per child 

OR

  • 1 percent of your annual income

So unless you make around $9500, you’ll likely pay 1% of your annual income as an Obamacare tax. Here are some examples from the IRS to better understand what you owe. You can cry over it once you exhaust your Dawson's Creek tissues.

/IRS

Doo doo doo doo doo. 

04 September 2014

Your Tax Refund Depends on a Flawless Health Insurance Application

Posted in Health Insurance 101

Your Tax Refund Depends on a Flawless Health Insurance Application

If you received too much financial assistance from Obamacare, you may owe the Feds. If money equals happiness then the IRS may drain your tax refund like a Dementor's kiss.

Health insurance applicants were spoiled by the honor system last year. They could easily apply through an agent or online without showing proof of income or citizenship for 90 days. Many applicants forgot to and Covered CA didn't really stay on top of it. 

But Covered California is finally mailing reminders to over 98,000 Californians almost a full year after open enrollment began. Since 2013, Covered CA verified over 700,000 documents that were sent via snail mail, faxed, or uploaded online.

In order to keep your health insurance, your documents must show accurate citizenship status and income. If government computers don't verify your information they should already have in the first place, you could lose your coverage.

Coming to a mail box near you, the letters will request proof of citizenship and/or income with instructions how to return them. Accepted forms of lawful presence include: US birth certificate, US passport, certificate of naturalization, or certificate of citizenship. More accepted documents are listed here.

Note: They will not be used for immigration purposes! As long as the applicant's citizenship checks out, Covered CA will simply match the proof of income with the projected income placed on last year's health insurance application.

No matter what time of the year, Californians are expected to maintain a "flawless" health insurance application by reporting a change in income, a change in family size, or a change of address within 90 days to Covered CA. Since data on an application determines how much in health insurance tax credits you receive, Obamacare wants nothing less than perfection. That's what it's paying for, right?

If you earned more income than you reported on your application, and you received health insurance subsidies (tax credits) every month, you may owe some to Uncle Sam. And yes, the amount may come out of your tax refund.

Income brackets and caps on subsidy refunds may help safeguard Californians from owing too much. The IRS posted examples of subsidy refunds if someone underreports income, but the amounts may not be definitive until tax season. 

A person earning between $22,000 - $34,470 may owe up to $750 in insurance subsidy refunds to the IRS. Someone making less than $22,000 may owe back only $300. The amounts really depend on income, family size, and age.

How does the Land Rover dealership verify my income before selling me a car but my health insurance agent can't? If Beyonce sold insurance, every application would be flawless. 

Speaking of flawless: RIP Joan Rivers. And Happy Birthday, Beyonce!

26 August 2014

I Got a Letter from Covered California Saying I Qualify for Health Insurance for 90 Days

Posted in Health Insurance 101

I Got a Letter from Covered California Saying I Qualify for Health Insurance for 90 Days

We just got a letter. We just got a letter. We just got a letter. Wonder who it's from? Mail from Covered California can be frequent, tardy, confusing, redundant, wasteful, but usually self-explanatory. If you started a health insurance application on Covered CA's website, you may still get letters delivered to your home. You can't escape them, even if you move to a Hut-on-a-Rock. 

The most common mail from Covered CA is a generic thank you letter telling the recipient he/she may qualify for premium assistance . It may annoy or confuse people who already signed up for a plan and know the whole tax credit spiel. 

This letter is automatically generated once someone enters a mailing address on Covered CA's online application. It takes a few business days to arrive, and by then you may have already enrolled. Don't take it out on the mail man for sending out-dated news. Even if you decide against Covered CA's insurance, the letter will arrive to try and change your mind. Ignore it if you already selected a plan. 

The second most frequent mail I get asked about proclaims "you qualify for health insurance through Covered Calfiornia for 90 days". Or it's worded as "you qualify for 90 days because information doesn't match Covered California's records". This letter is just worded horribly and sends everyone into a panic attack. No one is getting health insurance for just 90 days. 

The letter means that based on information you or a health insurance agent provided on your application, e.g.: your gross annual income, your age, family size, citizenship status, you must provide proof in the next 90 days. For example, if you say you're 26-years old, you must upload a copy of your birth certificate or drivers' license on Covered CA's website or fax your documents to an agent to do it for you.

The 90 days refers to the amount of time Covered CA gives a person to provide proof. If you cannot show proof as requested in your letter in 90 days after you sign up, you must reapply for health insurance. 

Similar-sounding scare mail was delivered to 100,000 homes over the summer, reminding forgetful Californians to send in proof of citizenship or residency. The cost of forgetting is losing your health insurance in October, which means you'll see a fine on next year's tax returns for not having 3 months of consecutive coverage in 2014. 

Seek a health insurance agent who understands the process if you want your case expedited. Just remember to be timely or risk shooting yourself in the foot and losing health insurance. Literal or figurative foot-shooting is now covered by Obamacare. 

21 August 2014

Only 15 Percent of Covered California Agents Speaks Spanish

Posted in Health Insurance 101

Only 15 Percent of Covered California Agents Speaks Spanish

A Covered California board meeting revealed only 15% of certified insurance agents speaks the language most commonly used by the highest uninsured population in California. Now it's clear why the state didn't reach its Latino enrollment goal

12,636 independent insurance agents are Covered California certified. That means only they can sell both types of insurance plans: those through the state exchange (Covered California) called "on-exchange" plans and private insurance plans called "off-exchange".

On-exchange plans additionally offer financial assistance, called subsidies or tax credits, but only to those who qualify. Nearly 2 million or 46% of Latinos is eligible for health insurance subsidies. Of that percentage, about 25% speaks Spanish primarily.

Latinos in California are more uninsured than any other demographic, which explains why agents and Covered California would seek them out. 

But when Covered California's website listed insurance agents by spoken language, only 15% were Spanish-literate, compared to 60% of Covered California councilors. One might assume the exchange had the upper hand, but by the end of open enrollment, independent agents enrolled more applicants than Covered California itself.

40% of all applicants enrolled through an agent while 9% signed up by phone or via online chat with a Covered California councilor. 44% of California's population speaks Spanish; that's over 2 million people, but only 252,000 Latinos signed up for health insurance last year; just shy of Covered California's 260,000 goal

Language barriers weren't the only reason Latino enrollment figures fell short. In the first 3 months of open enrollment, Covered California didn't have a functioning Spanish website. The same could be said about their English one, but at least it led to the English application. Broken links on "CuidadoDeSalud.gov" misdirected applicants to the English form, causing muchos problemas. 

Eventually, the major bilingual issues were fixed, allowing for a smoother enrollment. To improve next Obamacare season, the exchange budgeted $100 million for Latino outreach to likely fund the continuation of their Spanish billboards in Los Angeles and commercials during telenovelas. 

Haronian Insurance agents speak Spanish, Tagalog, Farsi, Hebrew, and I'm forgetting one... Oh, right, English. Across the Obamacare Planet, only one place can translate wonky insurance terms to the language you know. French users, you're on your own. 

English 101: Don't be fooled by the wrong subject when turning a verb singular or plural. 

In the tile of this article, "!5 Percent of Covered California Agents Speaks Spanish", what's wrong? "Agents speaks Spanish" sounds odd, but is correct. 

"15 Percent" is the subject and "Speaks" is the verb. "Of Covered California Agents" is a prepositional phrase because it starts with a preposition (of) and ends with a noun (Agents). 

Prepositional phrases serve a purpose, but not to the verb. They exist to answer: Which, When, How, and Where.

In this sentence, which speaks Spanish? Of Covered California agents? No. 15 percent speaks Spanish.

Do percentages confuse you into thinking they're plural? Do you say, "Two percent of my body is fat." or "Two percent of my body are fat."? Neither? Stop worrying about grammar and go work out!