The road to financial freedom just got a little smoother


The US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) released a series of state-based reports today on how the Affordable Care Act (ACA) has been faring so far in the 50 states.  Specifically, the reports highlight the numbers associated with the new coverage options, health savings, and federal funding.

One interesting set of numbers I had not seen before was a demographic breakdown of uninsured New Yorkers who will be eligible for coverage through the forthcoming NYS Health Benefit Exchange.  As a whole, over 1.9 million uninsured will be eligible for coverage.  The vast majority of these, 1.4 million (74%), come from households with at least one full-time worker in the family.   So, primarily folks who make too much to qualify for public health insurance like Medicaid or Family Health Plus, but don’t get coverage through their employer and can’t currently afford to buy it on their own.  Importantly, 88% of those eligible will likely qualify for financial aid to purchase coverage on the Exchange, or Medicaid.

Here is the rest of the breakdown:

  • More than half (57%) are male
  • Slightly less than half (43%) are young adults 18 – 35 years old
  • 28% are Latino/Hispanic
  • 19% are African American
  • 9% are Asian American or Pacific Islander.

I’d be curious to know what the federal estimates are of LGBT New Yorkers who are eligible for coverage, since estimates we’ve seen put the rate of uninsurance among LGBT New Yorkers at 25%. But for now, this gives a good sense of how outreach around the Exchange may be targeted.

The report also includes numbers on New Yorkers who have already been helped by the ACA.  For example, 160,000 young adults in New York have already gained coverage under the law’s provision that lets parents keep their kids on their plans until age 26.  New Yorkers who have insurance have also gained.  More than 4 million New Yorkers with private insurance have also gained free preventive services.  People with Medicare have also saved nearly $516 million on prescription drugs since the laws enactment.

These are just a few tidbits.  To read the full report (it’s short) you can click here.


For you!

A lot of folks think that 2014 is when the Affordable Care Act will really kick into effect, and yes, that is when the health insurance Exchanges will become fully operational.  And yes, those are a big part of the ACA.  But, they’re not the whole thing!

Many great things have already happened in the years since the law was implemented, including small business tax credits, a new coverage option for uninsured folks with pre-existing conditions, free preventive care, and allowing young people to stay on their parents’ plan until the age of 26.

And, 2013 will be no exception! There are more good things in store for us this year.  Here is a roundup of some of what’s to come:

  • More subsidies for seniors who hit the donut hole:  Seniors who hit the Medicare Part D coverage gap will now get federal subsidies for brand-name prescriptions (in addition to the 50% manufacturer brand-name discount that went into effect in 2011).
  • Improving Preventive Care:  State Medicaid programs that offer free or low cost preventive services will get increased federal funding to do so.  This means that low-income folks in many states will have better access to vaccinations, tests like colonoscopies and mammograms and routine screenings for high blood pressure, diabetes, and cholesterol.
  • Increased Medicaid payments to doctors: On January 1st, Medicaid payments for primary care doctors were brought up to Medicare levels. In New York, this will mean an estimated increase of 156% in Medicaid payments to doctors and will help to ensure low-income New Yorkers have sufficient access to doctors.  For more info on this, check out the Kaiser Family Foundation report titled, “How Much Will Medicaid Physician Fees for Primary Care Rise in 2013? Evidence from a 2012 Survey of Medicaid Physician Fees”
  • CHIP funding will be extended: the ACA will authorize funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) through 2015 (extended from 2013).  In New York, this program is called Child Health Plus. This will allow roughly 400,000 kids in New York to keep their free or low-cost health insurance.

Of course, not all of the ACA changes happening in 2013 will be a clear-cut “goody.”  2013 will also see a number of tax changes, including an increase in Medicare taxes for higher income earners (in order to boost up the Medicare trust), an exise tax of 2.3% on the sale of medical devices, and changes to FSA limits.  For a full list of changes, check out the Kaiser Family Foundation’s Implementation timeline.


Achtung baby!

Anyone not following the fiscal cliff negotiations in Congress will be happy to know that a last-minute deal was struck yesterday to avert a series of impending tax-hikes.  However, in order to get this deal passed, legislators also included several health policy changes.  These include cutting future funds for CO-OP health plans under the ACA, a “doc fix” to stabilize Medicare payments to doctors, and cutting Medicare payments to hospitals.

Sarah Kliff of the Washington Post does a great job of summing up these changes in a Wonkblog article posted today, without getting too far into the weeds.  Check it out if you get a chance.  Click here to read her article, titled “Fiscal cliff cuts $1.9 billion from Obamacare.  Here’s How.” 


Keeping in line with our “independence” theme this week, posted a great article on how the recent decision by the Supreme Court to uphold the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is improving many folk’s financial ability to retire.

And just how is it doing that, you ask?  Well, there’s a number of ways.  Basically, all of these things that the ACA is doing for folks – discounts for folks with Medicare who hit the donut hole, the pre-existing condition insurance plan (called the NY Bridge plan), tax-credits, etc – amounts to more money in your pockets.  More money in your pockets means more money that you can put towards other things – like retirement.

It’s pretty interesting stuff! You can check out the full article by clicking here.