Chris Walters, PolicyGenius Contributor
Although the March 31 deadline to buy personal health insurance and avoid a tax penalty is only a few weeks away, a couple of new reports show that the two groups that stand to benefit the most — the poor and the uninsured — are barely participating.
- A full 90 percent of people who are uninsured haven’t bought insurance on the marketplace.
- 80 percent of people who say they can’t afford insurance are actually eligible for subsidies, but two-thirds of them don’t know this.
- The poorer you are, the less likely you are to have even heard about the marketplaces.
The incredibly low participation rates from the poor and uninsured are even more surprising considering the onslaught of media coverage and promotional campaigns that have been running for months now. Despite everything, there’s clearly still a large information gap.
So maybe it’s time to take a more personal approach. If you know people in your family or circle of friends who still haven’t shopped for health insurance on one of the marketplaces, either because they’re worried about the cost or because they have no idea how it all works, feel free to use the information below to help clear things up.
It matters because after March 31st most Americans won’t be able to buy a policy through the health insurance marketplace again until November 14th, and that means they could possibly face a tax penalty (a small one, but still) when filing their 2014 taxes next year.
Excuse #1: “I haven’t bought health insurance because I can’t afford it”
For some this is sadly true even with the new cheaper plans, but at least those people are unlikely to face a tax penalty next year for not buying a policy.
For everyone else who says this — including all those people identified in the McKinsey survey who are eligible for health insurance subsidies but don’t know it — now is a good time to spend the 2 to 3 minutes it takes to find out your subsidy status. (Yes, it happens that fast.)
If you can go online, here’s a chart that shows qualifying income ranges for the health insurance subsidy.
If your income falls within the eligibility range, then you have your choice of two free interactive tools to help you find out exactly how much money you can get.
Option A (more streamlined):
Option B (more educational, better for absolute newbies):
Health Tax Credit Tool (English)
Crédito Fiscal de Salud (Spanish)
If you need an offline tool, Consumers Union (the organization that publishes Consumer Reports) offers free downloadable brochures in English and Spanish for every state. They’re very clear and explain how the subsidy works and how to determine your eligibility. (Be sure to choose the version in the first column, because it’s the one that includes a phone number you can call for further help.)
Any subsidy you qualify for is applied directly to the monthly premium of the plan you purchase. For example, if you qualify for a $100/month subsidy and buy a plan that’s normally $200/month, you’ll only have to pay $100/month ($200 minus the $100 subsidy).
Excuse #2: “I don’t know what information I’ll have to provide”
When you shop on the marketplace, you’ll need to provide enough personal information to prove your identity. If for some reason the marketplace can’t confirm you’re who you say you are, you might be asked to provide other types of proof.
In addition to personal information you’ll be asked to give your estimated income for 2014, and any subsidy you receive will be based on that number. Next year when you file your 2014 taxes, the amount on your tax return will be compared to what you submitted to the marketplace to make sure they match. If you should have received a larger subsidy, you’ll get that difference paid to you in a refund. If you should have received a smaller subsidy, you’ll have to pay back the difference.
If you want to know more about the verification process, Consumer Reports has a brief but detailed overview.
If you want to know what the actual shopping experience is like, we published a detailed account titled, “What no one tells you about shopping the ACA health insurance exchanges.”
Excuse #3: “I can’t access the website”
Not everyone can go online and spend the hour or two it can take from start to finish, but fortunately you can do it all over the phone. Here’s a list of every state’s marketplace help line. You can also find your state’s phone number printed on the brochures we mentioned above, so if you’re planning on explaining all of this to someone offline, be sure to print that out to bring with you.
So what do you do next?
If you’re looking to take the next step we’ve put together a handy checklist detailing how to go about shopping on the exchanges.
PolicyGenius is an independent site that offers unbiased advice and easy shopping for all lines of consumer insurance
I hate to rain on anyone’s parade, but let’s get off this thing about poor, picked on Ukraine standing up for freedom against the big, evil Russians.
Would you feel sympathy if poor, picked on Texas decided they wanted to secede? Maybe that might not be an entirely bad idea, given the reprehensible politics of the place. But still we’d probably object.
My best insight into Ukraine a couple or so years back came when I stood in front of the National Library in Sofia, the capital of Bulgaria. I was fascinated by the statue in front of two brothers, Saint Cyril and Saint Methodius, credited with inventing the Cyrillic alphabet which is used not only in Bulgaria but in Russia, Poland, the Ukraine and a lot of other places.
The Cyrillic alphabet, based on the Greek alphabet (Greece is a neighbor of Bulgaria), was created as a way to spread Orthodox Christianity in the eighth century. So little Bulgaria gave Eastern Europe the basis of the Slavic language.
Not far away from the library is Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, named after the great saint of the Orthodox Church who defended Mother Russia from the Germanic invaders in the 13th century.
There are many links between little Bulgaria and Mother Russia. The pivotal point of Bulgarian history was its 500 year war to drive the Turks from their land. The headquarters of the Bulgarian liberation movement was high in the mountains at Ryla Monastery, whose grounds date from the third century. In the 19th century, it was the Russians who fought with the Bulgarians and drove them from their land. But for Russia, it might have been another 500 years of the intensely brutal Turkish rule, known in Bulgaria as the “Turkish Yoke.”
The links between little Bulgaria and much bigger Russia are many. A small country, Bulgaria was the first European country — it became a nation sometime in the sixth century. Unlike the Ukraine, Bulgaria was never a part of the Russian Soviet Union, although it certainly became part of the Soviet bloc after World War II.
There was another great influence on the Bulgarians. Germany installed a German king and created a Bulgarian throne after World War I. So Bulgaria has not only enjoyed Russian influence, there’s the German influence as well.
After communism fell in the late eighties, people didn’t just study Russian as a second language — some studied German.
Nonetheless, its history was intertwined with Russia for hundreds of years. It was the German king who was ordered to Berlin for a conference with Hitler, who insisted he send Germany his Jews. The king refused, and died of a “heart attack” on the plane taking him back to Bulgaria. The head of the Bulgarian parliament, as well as the head of the Bulgarian Church, had stood in front of trains carrying their Jews to Germany. Bulgaria and Denmark were the only European countries that refused to help the Nazis in committing genocide against the Jews, unlike most other eastern countries — including in particular the Ukraine.
Some of my family came from the Ukraine, in an area that was sometimes part of Russia and sometimes part of Poland. I am keenly aware that the Ukrainian nationalists had a sordid history of cooperating with the Nazis during World War II. My mother’s very name came from the Crimean town of Yalta.
Americans tend not to understand geopolitics. Many had no idea what was behind the war in Bosnia cooked up by Prime Minister Tony Blair and U.S. President Bill Clinton.
Germany has always been anxious to control the territory of the former Yugoslavia, both as a market and as a bulwark against Russia. That’s why the Germans weren’t sorry that Yugoslavia was breaking up, because today they rule Europe by business and money, not armies.
But sometimes armies are still needed.
While Americans don’t understand this, many Europeans do. In Greece, they remember the German occupation, and the bankers of the European Union, who are run by Germans, are not beloved in that ancient cradle of democracy.
Let me explain this by telling the story of a friend I had, a musical composer of some note, who was a Sephardic Jew from Belgrade. He took the side of the Serbians over the Bosnians — why, because his own family survived World War II because simple Serbian peasants hid them in their houses.
Now none of this is to suggest Putin is a fine fellow. He is most obviously not. But his desire to get the Crimea into the Russian sphere of influence makes absolute sense, not only because the Russian Navy’s only warm water port is in the Crimea, but because it has always been part of Russia. And for that matter, so was Ukraine. Alexander Nevsky had the title of “Prince of Kiev.”
From my perspective, it’s hard for me to whip up any great enthusiasm for the Ukrainian nationalists. So sorry, but I think I see a great gray cloud coming in loaded with rain. Yep, I need to rain on your parade.
Lionel Rolfe is the author of a number of books on politics, classical music, literature and various things, all available on Amazon’s Kindle Store.
Major Garrett, National Journal
Chris Stirewalt, FOX News
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Texas Gov. Rick Perry was booed as he joined Jimmy Kimmel on stage for an early taping of the host’s late-night talk show on Tuesday at the South by Southwest conference in Austin.
Perry, a Republican, held his own, telling Kimmel, “After 14 years of this kind of love, it’s all good, man.”
The crowd’s sentiments shifted when the host of ABC’s “Jimmy Kimmel Live” asked Perry his position on decriminalizing marijuana. Perry nodded when Kimmel suggested the governor may decriminalize pot in Texas by January 2015.
“We’ve kind of done that,” Perry said. “You don’t want to ruin a kid’s life for having a joint.”
But when asked if he’d ever smoked marijuana himself, Perry responded, “No, thank God!”
“But does second-hand count?” Perry continued. “Because I think there’s still some left in there where Snoop [Dogg] was.”
Perry confirmed, answering Kimmel’s inquiries, that he shot a coyote while he was jogging, that he jogs and participates in interviews while carrying a gun, and that his mother made his underwear when he was a child.
“If you want to find out everything, I mean everything about yourself — some of which is even true — run for president,” Perry said.
Kimmel also asked Perry whether he planned to run for president in 2016, after an unsuccessful attempt in 2012.
“This is not the crowd that I want to make this announcement to,” Perry said.
“America is a great place for second chances,” he added.
Prior to the taping, Kimmel told The Huffington Post he wasn’t responsible for landing the interview with Perry.
“I don’t think it was hard to get him,” Kimmel said. “I actually didn’t really have much to do with it, I just saw his name on the list and thought, ‘Now I have to figure out what I’m going to talk to him about.’”