Recent Tax Changes May Affect Financial Assistance for Health Coverage

Recent changes to the federal tax law may have a specific new effect on New Yorkers who apply for coverage through the state’s health insurance marketplace, New York State of Health (NYSOH).

A specific deduction for qualified tuition and related expenses will no longer be allowed in 2018.  This means that new and renewing applicants will no longer be able to lower their countable income by the amount they qualified for under this deduction when they sign up for health coverage on NYSOH.  In previous tax years, ending with 2017, taxpayers could lower their taxable income by up to $4000. This could affect the eligibility of some New Yorkers for programs that help pay for health insurance.   These programs include subsidies for Qualified Health Plans, Medicaid, Child Health Plus, and the Essential Plan.

The deduction allowed up to $4000 in qualified expenses, which meant that New Yorkers who qualified in the past could reduce their income by this amount, potentially making them eligible for a more generous health insurance program. Although the qualified tuition and related expenses deduction actually expired at the end of 2016,  On February 9, 2018, the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018 extended this deduction retroactively to the end of 201. However, the deduction is no longer available as of January 1, 2018.

If you need tax advice on this subject, you can use the IRS resources on qualified education expenses, here and here.  Free tax assistance is available to qualified taxpayers through the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program.  There is more information on the program here.

For free help with a New York State of Health application for health insurance, you contact the Community Service Society Navigator Network, either by calling 1 888 614 5400 or emailing enroll@cssny.org.

C4A LogoGuest post by Claudia Calhoon, MPH, Director of Health Policy at the New York Immigration Coalition.

On Wednesday, December 13, the Assembly Committee on Health, the Assembly Puerto Rican/Hispanic Taskforce, and the Assembly Taskforce on New Americans convened a public hearing on Immigrant access to healthcare.  Coverage 4 All, a campaign of Health Care For All New York led by the New York Immigration Coalition and Make the Road New York was instrumental in advocating for the hearing. The campaign’s goal is to expand insurance eligibility to all New Yorkers to reduce disparities in coverage.   Barriers to coverage are just one of the many current threats to immigrant health access and quality.

Agencies that provided testimony included the New York State Department of Health, the New York City Mayor’s Office for Immigrants Affairs, New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, and New York City Health + Hospitals.  In addition, fifteen individuals from a range of social service, advocacy, health care, and community settings spoke about the impact of the federal administration on immigrant mobility, health utilization, coverage eligibility, and enforcement of language access regulation. Amid a federal landscape hostile to immigrants, New York State programs and protections are increasingly important.

Critical areas of particular attention included making sure that new mothers know they can safely continue to enroll in Medicaid and get prenatal care regardless of their immigration status, and continue to use the Women’s Infants, and Children (WIC) Food and Nutrition services. Another area of common interest among advocates was the opportunity that the state has to expand the Child Health Plus insurance program to cover young adults up to age 29 at a cost of $81 million.  Dr. Alan Shapiro, co-founder of Terra Firma, which works with unaccompanied minors, noted that health needs don’t end when young people turn 19.  These individuals “still have comprehensive primary care needs. They need access to immunizations, urgent care, sexual and reproductive health services.” The Child Health Plus Expansion is part of Health Care for All New York’s policy agenda, and the key priority of the Coverage 4 All campaign.

Hearing testimony from multiple stakeholders also highlighted the critical nature of improving enforcement of language access regulations, addressing mental health needs of immigrant communities subject to heightened stress under enhanced federal immigration enforcement, and ensuring that safety net hospitals have the revenue they need to care for all New York State residents.

Yay BlogNew York State’s official health plan Marketplace, the NY State of Health (NYSOH), announced this morning that more than 45,000 New Yorkers enrolled in Qualified Health Plan and Essential Plan coverage for the first time during the first four week of Open Enrollment. This represents an 13 percent increase in Marketplace participation compared to the first four weeks of last year’s open enrollment, and there are still two months left to enroll.

According to the press release, New York’s uninsured rate has reached a new historic low of 4.7 percent compared to 10 percent in 2013.

The release also notes the incredible success of New York’s Basic Health Plan, branded the Essential Plan, which now has nearly 700,000 individuals enrolled.

Open enrollment continues through January 31, 2018. You can enroll in health coverage through the NYSOH website. If you need help enrolling, Navigators are available to provide in-person assistance. Please call (888) 614-5400 to find a Navigator in your area.

Today is the DayIf you currently have a Qualified Health Plan (QHP) through the New York State of Health (NYSOH), New York’s official health insurance Marketplace, you can renew your coverage for 2018 starting TODAY.

Retuning consumers must renew their coverage between November 16, 2017 and December 15, 2017 to avoid a gap in coverage.

You can renew your coverage on your own by visiting the NYSOH website. If you or someone you know needs help renewing coverage, Navigators are available to assist! Please call 888.614.5400 for in-person enrollment assistance in your area.