Tax refunds will be cut for ACA recipients

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Susan Tompor, Detroit Free Press 9:10 a.m.

A significant benefit of the Affordable Care Act is the opportunity to receive money-saving tax credits up front to cut the overall cost of health insurance, but now hundreds of thousands of consumers could owe back some of that money next April.

Those affected took advance payments of the premium tax credit for health insurance. Some married couples could owe $600 or $1,500 or $2,500 or even more. It might feel like a raw deal for some who are already suffocating under the escalating costs of health insurance.

“Health insurance is confusing enough, and now they’re adding the complexities of the Tax Code,” said Lorena Bencsik, a member of the Michigan Association of CPAs and owner of Prime Numbers in Ferndale.

When you file that 2014 tax return next year, the Internal Revenue Service will compare your actual income for the year with the amount you estimated when applying for exchange-based health insurance under the health insurance law.

The next open enrollment period begins Nov. 15. But notices were sent this week to some consumers whose incomes don’t match up to such things as 2012 tax return information.

On Monday, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services said at least 279,000 households reported incomes that still don’t match what the government has on record. Supporting documents are needed by Sept. 30.

What can you do to avoid tax-time problems?

Experts say people need to realize early on that they should report changes in income and other changes in one’s life, such as a marriage, throughout the year. See HealthCare.gov to report “income and life changes.”

Of course, many people may have no idea that they’d need to report changes.

The IRS put out some more details on the issue mid-month.

What should you report? A move, an increase or decrease in income, a marriage or divorce, the birth or adoption of a child, whether you started a job that offers health insurance and whether you gained or lost eligibility for other health care coverage.

Best spots for information: HealthCare.gov and IRS.gov/aca.

Karen Pollitz, senior fellow with the Kaiser Family Foundation, said many people who qualify for these tax credits aren’t working 9-to-5 jobs with regular salaries. So guesstimating one’s income for the coming year can be very tough.

“It’s people in transition. Maybe they’re in and out of work,” she said. Or maybe they’re self-employed.

People who lose a job would want to report that change during the year, as well, because that change can lead to a higher advance payment for the credit.

“Life changes can drive tax changes,” said Mark Steber, chief tax officer for Jackson Hewitt Tax Service.

Steber stressed that people need to make sure to update information via HealthCare.gov or their state insurance exchanges.

The Kaiser Family Foundation site has a calculator to help figure out potential tax credits, based on one’s situation.

Premium tax credits are available to individuals and families with incomes between 100% of the federal poverty line ($23,550 for a family of four this year) and 400% of the federal poverty line ($94,200 for a family of four) who purchase coverage in the health insurance marketplace in their state.

The tax credits are paid directly to the insurer, if taken in advance. People are not required to take the entire credit in advance. Realistically, if you cannot afford insurance, you’d need some credit in advance.

To be sure, there are some caps on the amount filers must pay back and the cap is based on household income. The cap ranges from $300 to $1,250 for some single taxpayers and $600 to $2,500 for married taxpayers, again based on income.

But if the income is 400% or more above the poverty line, there is no cap and the taxpayer must pay back the full amount.

Rules exist for qualifying for the premium tax credit: You must buy health insurance through the marketplace; you’re not eligible for coverage through an employer or government plan; your income must be within certain limits; you do not file a married-filing-separately federal tax return (unless you meet certain exceptions, such as victims of domestic abuse and spousal abandonment) and you cannot be claimed as a dependent by another person.

The actual credit would vary based on how close your are to the federal poverty level, your age, the size of your family and where you live.

Sadly, it’s fair to say some people will see some unexpected, unpleasant surprises on their tax returns next year.

DEMS DUMP OBAMA FROM SPEECHES

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Democrats try to distance themselves from Obama

By Colby Itkowitz September 20 at 8:00 AM

When President Obama took office in 2009, congressional Democrats were euphoric. With control of the House, Senate and the White House, and high public approval for their new party standard bearer, Democrats eagerly embraced Obama and all the long-awaited policy initiatives he’d surely help them achieve.

In that first month, congressional Democrats mentioned Obama during floor speeches 200 or so more times than Republicans. In the next year and a half, the parties referred to the president at similar rates, sometimes with the Republicans having more to say, other times the Democrats.

One can reasonably assume that when the Democrats speak of the president publicly it’s in a favorable way and when Republicans do it’s, well, not quite as glowing. As positive public opinion of Obama began to dip after his first year, the spread between how often Republicans and the Democrats invoked Obama grew wider. Put simply, the Democrats weren’t mentioning Obama by name nearly as much as Republicans.

The gap is particularly notable in the last year as seen in the chart above by the Sunlight Foundation, which measures how often any given word is spoken against all words in floor speeches and debates collected by the Congressional Record. Last fall, at the height of the government shutdown and the Obamacare rollout, Republicans were predictably discussing (bashing) Obama more.

But the trend has continued.

Much has been written this election cycle about the Democrats distancing themselves from Obama ahead of the midterm elections. Some Democratic candidates in tough races regularly emphasize their differences with the president. And Obama is persona non grata on the campaign trail (unless it’s inside private high-dollar fundraiser dinners).

If the number of times they bring him up in front of the C-SPAN cameras is a measure, the Democrats detachment from the president is even evident on Capitol Hill – where every spoken word is recorded forever, so it’s especially crucial to choose them carefully.

As my grandmother always said, “You can’t take back the spoken word.”

She also often said, “If you can’t say anything, nice don’t say anything at all.” And perhaps Democrats simply don’t have very many nice things to say.

‘Family Glitch’ in Obamacare to Impact 1.9 Million Americans

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Under Obamacare, Americans below 138 percent of the poverty line are eligible for Medicaid coverage

BY: Elizabeth Harrington
September 18, 2014 12:10 pm

Vague language within Obamacare will result in nearly 2 million Americans being unable to afford health insurance, according to a new report by the American Action Forum (AAF).

The so-called “family glitch” occurs when an individual is offered health insurance through their employer but the plan is not extended to the rest of their family. Due to the Internal Revenue Service’s (IRS) interpretation of the law, other immediate family members are not eligible to receive subsidies for insurance, even if their income is below the federal poverty level.

The AAF has estimated that 1.93 million Americans will be affected by the glitch, making it “practically impossible” for them to obtain affordable health care coverage.

“The ‘Family Glitch,’ as it has become known, is an odd and particularly problematic side-effect of the Affordable Care Act (ACA),” the report said. “Since several provisions of the law are rather ambiguous, they unfortunately combine to create a perfect storm where obtaining affordable health insurance is practically impossible.”

Under Obamacare, Americans below 138 percent of the poverty line are eligible for Medicaid coverage, and anyone up to 400 percent of the poverty level can also receive subsidies to help pay for insurance purchased through the health exchange.

However, this provision does not apply to families who have been offered employer-sponsored insurance (ESI), even if it is only offered to the individual employee.

“This provision of the law lacks clarity on the point of whether or not the coverage offered must be family coverage, or whether individual coverage is sufficient,” the AAF said. “The Internal Revenue Service (IRS), through rule making, has interpreted the statute as only requiring an employer to offer individual coverage, and pegged affordability at 9.5 percent of the employee’s household income. The glitch occurs when one (or both) spouses are offered affordable individual ESI under the IRS definition, but family coverage is either not offered or is unaffordable.”

“Spouses and children of an employee offered ESI could be unable to afford the employer plan, but because it is offered to one family member, the rest are made ineligible for subsidies in the Exchanges,” the report added.

Using census data from April 2013, AAF estimated 947,000 spouses and 984,000 children could fall into this category, and left uninsured. The glitch will affect up to 428,000 women and 519,000 adult men.

If Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) funding expires, 2.28 million children would also be affected, according to AAF.

The provision could have unintended consequences for employees in the middle class, forcing them to not accept higher paying jobs out of fear of losing subsidy eligibility to pay for their family’s health insurance.

The AAF also said the glitch could result in families choosing to separate or divorce, in order to keep subsidies.

“The family glitch is just one of many problems that will inevitably arise from the ACA’s complete restructuring of the health care system,” the report concluded. “It is an unintended consequence that creates hardship and perverse incentives for American families struggling to obtain affordable health insurance. This year alone 1.93 million Americans will be impacted by this glitch and that number will likely increase as the employer mandate goes into effect.”

Networks Ignore Over 100,000 About to Lose ObamaCare

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http://www.mrctv.org/videos/networks-ignore-over-100000-about-lose-obamacare

http://www.mrctv.org/embed/129337

By Kyle Drennen | September 16, 2014 | 11:07 AM

NBC, ABC, and CBS completely ignored the latest setback for ObamaCare after news broke Monday that around 115,000 people were expected to lose health insurance coverage at the end of September due to their failure to verify their legal status as United States citizens. Not only did CBS skip any mention of the bad news for President Obama’s signature legislation, but on Tuesday’s CBS This Morning, co-host Norah O’Donnell actually touted a good news story about the law in the New York Times: “Federal researchers say the number of uninsured Americans dropped by about 4 million to 41 million during the first quarter of this year. It’s the first time the government has counted uninsured Americans since President Obama’s Affordable Care Act kicked in last January.” [Listen to the audio] var _comscore = _comscore || [];_comscore.push({ c1: “2”, c2: “8075606” });(function() {var s = document.createElement(“script”), el = document.getElementsByTagName(“script”)[0]; s.async = true;s.src = (document.location.protocol == “https:” ? “https://sb” : “http://b”) + “.scorecardresearch.com/beacon.js”;el.parentNode.insertBefore(s, el);})();var _qevents=_qevents||[];(function(){var elem=document.createElement(‘script’);elem.src=(document.location.protocol==”https:”?”https://secure”:”http://edge”)+”.quantserve.com/quant.js”;elem.async=true;elem.type=”text/javascript”;var scpt=document.getElementsByTagName(‘script’)[0];scpt.parentNode.insertBefore(elem,scpt)})();_qevents.push({qacct:”p-31q9Yl_0VT7xs”,labels:”Newsbusters, News, Commentary, Conservative”}); loadAdVals(“RotateNoBlue”); Meanwhile, Tuesday’s Washington Post did cover the ObamaCare failure, but buried it on page B-2. In addition to National Journal, the Associated Press also offered a report on the development, so there was no excuse for the networks not being aware of the story. – See more at: http://newsbusters.org/blogs/kyle-drennen/2014/09/16/networks-ignore-over-100000-about-lose-obamacare?utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=marketing&utm_term=facebook&utm_campaign=networks-obamacare#sthash.SliDTFle.dpuf

Minnesota’s Biggest (And Cheapest) Obamacare Insurer Drops Out Over Overwhelming Costs

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Sarah Hurtubise
Reporter

The largest insurer with the lowest premium rates on Minnesota’s Obamacare exchange is dropping out because the government health-exchange is unsustainable, the company announced Tuesday.

PreferredOne Health Insurance told MNsure, the state-run exchange, Tuesday morning that it would not continue to offer its popular insurance plans on the marketplace in 2015. It’s “purely a business decision,” spokesman Steve Peterson told KSTP-TV. The company is losing money on administrative costs for plans offered on the bureaucratic and glitchy government exchange.

Part of the problem, according to PreferredOne, is that MNsure hasn’t even been able to verify its customers’ information. PreferredOne said that some of its customers have turned out not to even live in Minnesota.

Insurers are required to accept customers who’ve been approved by the exchange for coverage, but states and the federal government have been struggling for months to determine which applicants are actually eligible for the benefits. (RELATED: Obama Admin Is Kicking 115K Off Obamacare Plans)

“Our MNsure individual product membership is only a small percentage of the entire PreferredOne enrollment but is taking a significant amount of our resources to support administratively,” the company said in a statement. “We feel continuing on MNsure was not sustainable and believe this is an important step to best serve all PreferredOne members.”

PreferredOne was Minnesota’s largest exchange insurer with 59 percent of individual MNsure sign-ups, according to KSTP. Another four insurance companies — Blue Cross Blue Shield, HealthPartners, Medica and UCare — will continue to offer plans on the exchange next year.

This leaves Minnesota Obamacare customers in a tricky situation. PreferredOne had significantly lower rates than any other insurer on the exchange. When these plans disappear, customers will see a significant rate hike if they choose to continue on the Obamacare exchange, independent of yearly rate hikes.

Minnesota is scheduled to announce premium rates for 2015 Obamacare plans in October and signs point to looming price hikes that will hit Minnesotans doubly hard.

Scott Leitz, CEO of the state exchange, released a joint statement with PreferredOne CEO Marcus Merz, emphasizing that the company will work with MNsure to “minimize impact” to current enrollees.

Read more: http://dailycaller.com/2014/09/16/minnesotas-biggest-and-cheapest-obamacare-insurer-drops-out-over-overwhelming-costs/#ixzz3DVxB7KMx

5 lies that have shaped the Obama presidency

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By Jack Cashill

September 13, 2014 | 1:55pm

If past presidents are remembered for their signature achievements, Obama will be remembered for his signature lie: “If you like your health care plan, blah, blah, blah.” The reader knows the rest. Although the most consequential of Obama’s lies — it got him re-elected — it’s far from his only prevarication.

I’ve counted 75 significant lies since his campaign for president began, but that doesn’t begin to tally the casual fibs and hyperbole he spouts seemingly every day. Here are five that illustrate just how much Obama’s presidency is built on falsehoods.

5. “My father left my family when I was 2 years old.”

Obama made this claim in September 2009, when addressing the nation’s schoolkids. By then, the blogosphere knew that baby Obama had never spent a night under the same roof as his father, let alone two years.

For years, Obama and his advisers invested enormous political capital in what biographer David Remnick called Obama’s “signature appeal: the use of the details of his own life as a reflection of a kind of multicultural ideal.”

Remnick called Obama’s autobiography “a mixture of verifiable fact, recollection, recreation, invention and artful shaping.” In other words, the truth is never good enough.

4. “The Fast and Furious program was a field-initiated program begun under the previous administration.”

Obama spun this fiction at a September 2012 Univision forum knowing it was false. In fact, the bizarre, deadly idea to let American guns “walk” into Mexico, where they were used by drug cartels to kill dozens, began in October 2009.

Three months earlier, White House press secretary Jay Carney had made the same bogus claim virtually word for word at a press conference and got shot down on national TV. “It began in fall 2009,” corrected White House correspondent Jake Tapper, then with ABC.

Carney refused to acknowledge he lied, and the president continued to lie weeks later. It’s all part of Obama’s ducking of responsibility — it’s always someone else’s fault.

3. “Not even a smidgen of corruption.”

Obama said this in response to Bill O’Reilly’s question about the IRS scandal: “You’re saying no corruption?”

If there were not even a “smidgen of corruption,” as Obama insisted, it is hard to understand what outraged him, or at least seemed to, when news of the IRS scandal first broke. “It’s inexcusable, and Americans are right to be angry about it, and I am angry about it,” Obama said in May 2013. Obama routinely expressed anger when some new scandal erupted on his watch — IRS, the failed ObamaCare website, the VA scandal, Fast and Furious — but never before had he shoved a scandal down the memory hole so quickly.

And how could Obama know there wasn’t a smidgen of corruption before the investigation was even over? Perhaps because the administration knew that any proof of that was gone with deleted emails and destroyed hard drives?

2. “We revealed to the American people exactly what we understood at the time.”

During that same Super Bowl Sunday interview, Obama made this claim in response to O’Reilly’s inquiry about the attack on the American consulate in Benghazi. Obama continued to dissemble: “The notion that we would hide the ball for political purposes when a week later we all said, in fact, there was a terrorist attack taking place and the day after I said it was an act of terror, that wouldn’t be a very good coverup.”

In fact, it was exactly a week after the attack, on Sept. 18, that Obama took his first questions about Benghazi. Bizarrely, he did so to David Letterman. “Here’s what happened,” Obama said.

“You had a video that was released by somebody who lives here, sort of a shadowy character who — who made an extremely offensive video directed at — at Mohammed and Islam.”

We know now that the administration knew this wasn’t true. Not a week later; not even the very night of the attacks.

On many levels, this was Obama’s most telling lie. He only deals with the world as he sees it, not as it is.

1. “Transparency and the rule of law will be the touchstones of this presidency.”

Obama told this whopper to his assembled staff on his first day in office. He promised it to the press. Instead, his administration refuses to hand over documents and Obama refuses to answer questions. As liberal constitutional scholar Jonathan Turley assessed the presidency, “Barack Obama is really the president Richard Nixon always wanted to be.”

What do these lies, just a sample of many, tell us? Obama never stopped “artfully shaping” his life.

The scary thing is he might actually believe these lies. He believes that posting a shot from his personal photographer online is “transparent.” That targeting conservative groups for audits isn’t corrupt. That everything that has gone wrong with his presidency is Bush’s fault.

Knowing that, how can we believe anything that he says?