Don’t panic. Yes, I did start a column on this same subject in this same way a couple of weeks ago. Yes, this is a different column — so, no! You haven’t “lost it” (at least, as far as I know).
The object of the game here is to e-a-s-e our way into this thing, rather like sticking one-toe-at-a-time into the very cold water, so grit your teeth and go boldly.
What we’re talking about here is the health insurance “mandate” that kicks-in on January 1, 2014. IF you are on Medicare, or Medicaid, or Tri-Care or VA or already have health insurance through your employer that is fairly decent or what-not, you already have health insurance, so will not be required to go get health insurance, so none of this will apply to you; HOWEVER, if you happen to know, like or love anyone who doesn’t have any of these, the “mandate” will apply to them, so cut this out and tape it to their toilet, or any other equally popular site in said insuranceless person’s abode.
A lot of people are pretty focused on “THE PENALTY,” and Yes: There is a penalty. What many of us have heard is that for 2014, the penalty is $95, so many of the “young invincibles” (who are young, but NOT “invincible”) are expected to say, “Well, that’s cheaper than buying health insurance, so forget it.”
OK, but here’s the rest of that sentence: The penalty is $95 per adult, plus $47.50 per child, up to a maximum of $285 per family OR 1 percent of income; potentially, that “1 percent of income” could be considerably more than $95 AND said Young Invincible could walk away with health insurance.
By the way, in 2015, THE PENALTY jumps to $325 per adult, maxing-out at $975 per family or 2 percent of income, then jumps again in 2016, so we might as well start figuring this out now. Those of us who are neither “young” nor deluded into thinking that we’re invincible, and who don’t have health insurance will be subject to this same penalty, so don’t write this off as the exclusive problem of clueless, 27-year-old males.
That’s the “stick” – What’s the “carrot?” Well, for many uninsured folks, there will be help paying for this new thing called “health insurance;” specifically, Medicaid (NOT Medicare — Medicaid) will expand.
What that means is that folks whose budgets are pretty darned tight could get insurance for free. For instance:
If the household is 1 person (just you), and your income is at or below $15, 856, you’re probably eligible for this “new version” of Medicaid. I purposely say “new version,” because even if you’ve applied for Medicaid before and got turned down, this is a NEW critter, so you’re starting over.
If the household is 2, the income cut-off is $21,404. If there are 3 of you, annual income at or below $26,951 gets you into Medicaid and for 4 of you, $32,499 ($2,708/month). It goes on, but this is getting boring, and I’m sure you’ve got the drift by now.
I know what some of you are thinking. You’re thinking, “Oh, PIFFLE! That kid of mine makes just slightly over those amounts!” OK, try this:
The next level of “help” is through tax credits, that could be applied to the health insurance premiums or taxes or whatever is best. These, too, are “tiered,” and we could get lost in a visual blizzard of numbers here, so allow me to cut to the “high end:” If you’re alone, and you’re income is $44,680 or less, you could get some help. If there are two of you, think $60,520, and for a family of four, think $92,200.
Being the omniscient column-producer that I am, I know what some of you are thinking now. You’re thinking, “REALLY? (That could really help!).” Others are thinking, “REALLY? (That’s an abomination!).”
I’m thinking, “Yes, REALLY.” And this is another one of those junctures where this whole conversation could get very political, and I have no intention of getting “political,” because that’s not my job. This is the law, and the law is in effect; thus, my job (OUR job) is to help people get to where they need or want to go. Do I think this will help some people? Yes. Do I think this is a perfect law? No. Do I think it’s time to stop beating it to death and get on with it? YES!
Look, there are many of us who haven’t been able to afford (or get) health insurance, so what happens is that many of us can’t get healthcare because we don’t have health insurance, so we do without; THEN, we get sicker (or the family does) and we end up in the ER room and … Right: The circle goes ‘round, and people suffer, so let’s get on with this.
This whole thing begins on October 1st, so we still have a little while to try to “get it.” We, and plenty of other good folks in our communities, will be available to help — for free!
If you need it or want it, so for now, just try to understand the “big picture,” and think: Think about you, and the people you love and the people you know, who are going to be needing to navigate this, because once again, my friends, there will be absolutely nothing “blissful” about ignorance.
Mark Harvey is the director of Information and Assistance for Olympic Area Agency on Aging. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 532-0520 in Aberdeen, (360) 942-2177 in Raymond or (360) 642-3634. FACEBOOK: Olympic Area Agency on Aging-Information & Assistance.