The News Desk is a collection of news, notes and breaking items affecting the Fredericksburg community.
More than 600,000 Virginians may qualify for insurance help
A national report estimates that more than 600,000 Virginians will be eligible for federal tax credits to help them buy health insurance under the Affordable Care Act.
The report was released Tuesday by Families USA, a Washington-based nonprofit that advocates for affordable health care.
It looked at a number of states, including Virginia, to determine how many people might benefit from the tax credits contained in the ACA.
Under the law, starting next year people who make under a certain income level—up to 400 percent of the federal poverty line—are eligible for tax credits to help offset the cost of health insurance premiums.
For a single adult, an income of around 400 percent of the poverty level is about $46,000 a year. For a family of four, it’s $94,200, the report said.
According to the report, more than 624,000 uninsured Virginians would be eligible for some level of tax credit. The tax credits are applied on a sliding scale, so the lower your income, the larger the credit.
“As you can tell, this reaches deeply into the middle class and for moderate income families,” said Families USA executive director Ron Pollack in a conference call with reporters. “The tax credit subsidies are a game changer. They will make health care affordable for huge numbers of families.”
The report estimates that about 43 percent of Virginians eligible for a tax credit have incomes of less than twice the poverty level; the other 56.7 percent have incomes between twice and four times the poverty level.
It also says that most of the eligible Virginians—546,000—are in families where someone works either full or part-time.
The Families USA report contains data on how many people might be eligible for the tax credit in localities, but lumps localities together into groups.
Stafford and King George counties are combined; the report says 8,710 people in those two localities would be eligible for the credits.
In Fredericksburg, Spotsylvania County and Culpeper, 13,880 would be eligible.
In both groups, close to 90 percent of those people are employed.
The tax credits would be paid to insurance companies through a health insurance exchange, Families USA’s report said, to lower the cost of premiums, with the individuals or families paying the difference.
All states, including Virginia, will have some form of health insurance exchange, where private insurers offer plans for people to purchase. The exchanges will open for enrollment in October, with insurance coverage beginning Jan. 1, 2014. While some states have elected to set up their own exchange, Virginia political leaders have chosen instead to participate in a federally-run exchange.
The exchanges and tax credits are an ACA provision for people who aren’t eligible for coverage under Medicaid.
The prospect of expanding Medicaid eligibility is a different issue, and one state leaders are still working through.
Many Virginia Republicans have opposed the expansion, arguing that federal promises to pay for most of the cost are unsustainable.
But the state is still considering the issue. Language in the state budget, approved earlier this month, spells out a number of reforms in the Medicaid program that Virginia wants federal permission to enact.
If all of those reform conditions were met, a panel of legislators would be authorized to decide whether to move forward with expansion.
On Tuesday the Commonwealth Institute for Fiscal Analysis—which supports Medicaid expansion—put out information detailing how many Virginians in each locality would be eligible for Medicaid coverage if the eligibility rules were expanded.
Overall, it’s estimated that up to 400,000 Virginians could get Medicaid under the expansion.
Data from the Commonwealth Institute’s map shows the following numbers of people who would be eligible in the Fredericksburg region:
- Stafford: 27 percent of the uninsured would be eligible, 2,875 people.
- Spotsylvania: 32 percent of the uninsured would be eligible, 3,967 people
- Fredericksburg: 46 percent of uninsured would be eligible, 1,508 people
- Caroline: 36 percent of uninsured would be eligible, 1,257 people
- King George: 33 percent of uninsured would be eligible, 624 people
- Louisa: 38 percent of uninsured would be eligible, 1,544 people
- Orange: 37 percent of uninsured would be eligible, 1,406 people
- Culpeper: 37 percent of uninsured would be eligible, 2,036 people
- Westmoreland: 39 percent of uninsured would be eligible, 921 people