Report makes prediction on health insurance tax credits
TAMPA - More than 270,000 Tampa-area residents may qualify for health insurance tax credits in 2014, an analysis released Tuesday shows. Moderate and middle-income adults who don’t get insurance through an employer would be able to use the money — adding up to thousands of dollars a year for many — to buy private health plans from Florida’s new marketplace as part of the Affordable Care Act. According to Tuesday’s report from Families USA, 1.7 million Floridians qualify for the subsidies, which will be determined by how much individuals make annually compared to current poverty rates. That total includes 105,780 Hillsborough County residents, 85,270 in Pinellas County and 46,060 in Pasco County, said Ron Pollack, executive director of the group known for its advocacy of the Affordable Care Act. He called the credits “a game changer.”“This will help make sure that health insurance is available for middle- and moderate- income families,” he said. The report is one of the first glimpses at how many local people will be affected by the credits, part of the 2010 Affordable Care Act. This portion of the law is designed for people who don’t qualify for government-backed Medicaid insurance but make less than 400 percent of the poverty level. For example, a family of four making $35,300 a year would contribute $1,410 a year for coverage, and the federal government would send the insurance carrier a tax credit totaling $11,090, the “Help is at Hand” report said. By comparison, the 149 million Americans with employer-paid health plans pay premiums costing roughly $5,600 for individuals to $16,000 a year for families, the Kaiser Family Foundation’s 2012 Employer Health Benefits Survey said. The Families USA report may be premature, said Josh Archambault, director of health-care policy at the Boston-based Pioneer Institute. It may be making some assumptions about the new exchange that have yet to be determined. Floridians will need to do a lot of homework comparing their options, he said. They shouldn’t assume the subsidies or insurance on the exchange will be more affordable or appropriate for their health needs. “This is where it’s going to get confusing for consumers,” he said. U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor, D-Tampa, said many Tampa-area residents still don’t understand details of the law, especially the credit to help pay health insurance premiums. Working-age adults ages 18 to 54 are the ones to benefit most from the subsidy designed for people who can’t get employer-based insurance. In Florida, 65 percent of the potential recipients fall in that category, the report said. Also, 87 percent of those eligible for the credit work part-time or full-time jobs, she said. “Now we have the data to go forth and show our neighbors,” Castor said.