BY WILLIAM BIGELOW
According to H&R Block, uninsured filers are paying more than double what they paid last year for penalties incurred for lacking health insurance, as per Obamacare.
H&R Block estimated that its clients are anteing up an average of $383 this year, as opposed to $172 one year ago. The increase in costs derives from the penalty estimated on $325 or 2 percent of income, whichever is greater, far more than the $95 or 1 percent of qualified income of 2014.
According to healthcare.gov, you owe the fee for any month you, your spouse, or your tax dependents don’t have health insurance that qualifies as minimum essential coverage.” The fee for not having health insurance in 2016 is $695 per adult, and $347.50 per child under 18, with a maximum of $2,085.
A Kaiser Family Foundation study found that seven million people qualify for a subsidy, while roughly half have incomes that are so low they qualify them for a zero-cost bronze plan. That plan has to cover at least 60 percent of the enrollee’s health care costs.
60% of H&R Block clients who received advanced tax credits in order to pay for private plans are reimbursing the IRS because they underestimated their actual income for 2015.
A problem arose for filers who received subsidies; they had to figure out how those subsidies worked with their actual income. The number of people repaying subsidies to the government rose from 52% last year to 60% this year, from an average of $530 last year to $579 this year.
Over one-third of those who claimed Obamacare tax credits over-estimated how much money they made; on average, they were reimbursed $450 from the government.
“Wake up. Wake up, South Carolina!” Lee begins a 60-second radio spot endorsing the dark-horse candidate with a nod to his 1989 film ‘Do the Right Thing’.
“Ninety-nine percent of Americans were hurt by the great recession of 2008, and many are still recovering,” Lee says in the ad. “And that’s why I am officially endorsing my brother Bernie Sanders. Bernie takes no money from corporations. Nada. Which means he is not on the take. And when Bernie gets into the White House, he will do the right thing.”
The ad airs in the lead up to Saturday’s Democratic primary in South Carolina, in which former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is almost guaranteed to declare victory. Nate Silver’s number crunchers at FiveThirtyEight blog give her a better than 99 percent chance of winning. Clinton is expected to take 57.5 percent of the vote, with 32.1 percent going to Sanders, based on the blog’s weighted poll averages.
Sanders has struggled to capture the African-American vote, although his numbers have been climbing. In South Carolina, African-Americans ‒ who make up about a quarter of the Palmetto State’s population ‒ prefer Clinton 68 percent to Sanders’ 21 percent, according to an NBC News/Wall Street Journal/Marist poll. White Democrats there, however, prefer Sanders 51 percent to 46 percent.
Lee’s ad plays up Sanders’ civil rights bona fides.
“Bernie was at the March on Washington with Dr. King. He was arrested in Chicago for protesting segregation in public schools,” the director says. “He fought for wealth and education equality throughout his whole career. No flipping, no flopping. Enough talk. Time for action.”
Lee joins a long list of more than 100 “artists, musicians, and cultural leaders of America” supporting the self-described democratic socialist, according to the candidate’s website. Actress Susan Sarandon welcomed the famed director to the Sanders fan club.
Actor Danny Glover has joined the Vermont senator on the campaign trail, introducing him at a rally in Greenville, South Carolina on Saturday.
Rapper Killer Mike of Run The Jewels jumped on board with Sanders in November, after the two shared a hearty meal at a famous Atlanta soul food restaurant.
Celebrities aren’t just lending their support to Sanders, they’re serving up their talent, too. Ben & Jerry’s co-founder Ben Cohen created the “Bernie’s Yearning” ice cream flavor for his fellow Vermonter.
The company has distanced itself from the creation, although both Cohen and co-founder Jerry Greenfield are involved with the project.
Shepard Fairey, the artist who designed the famous Obama ‘Hope’ poster during the 2008 presidential race, both endorsed Sanders and created a T-shirt for the campaign that sells for $30.
Clinton has raised more than $11 million in Hollywood for either her campaign or SuperPACs supporting her, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Celebrity Clinton backers include ‘Orange is the New Black’ actress Uzo Aduba, basketball star Magic Johnson, ‘American Idol’ contestant and former congressional candidate Clay Aiken, ‘Scandal’ leading lady Kerry Washington and creator Shonda Rhimes. Aduba and Rhimes joined with 15 other female stars in a video accompanied by the hashtag #ImWithHer, posted to ‘Girls’ actress Lena Dunham’s page.
The former secretary of state has also gained the endorsement of the Congressional Black Caucus PAC, although individual members of the caucus itself are free to support any candidate. South Carolina Representative Jim Clyburn, the highest-ranking African-American in the House, was one CBC member who lent his gravitas to the Clinton campaign ahead of his state’s primary. Clinton has also gotten the nod of former NAACP President Hazel Dukes.
BY SARAH HURTUBISE
A top insurer is dropping from Washington, D.C.’s Obamacare exchange in 2016, leaving customers with fewer options than ever in the nation’s capital.
Aetna Life Insurance will no longer offer individual plans on D.C. Health Link, Washington’s own Obamacare exchange, in 2016, The Washington Post reports. Aetna is sending letters to customers notifying them that their plans will be canceled at the end of this year. The company says it has “determined we can no longer meet the needs of our customers while remaining competitive in the market.”
That will leave just one company on the exchange, CareFirst, that provides Preferred Provider Organization plans, or PPOs, which offer a wider choice of approved doctors and hospitals to customers. Just two other companies currently offer health maintenance organizations, HMOs, on the exchange.
That will leave customers looking for greater choice in their health care options with just one insurance company, CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield, which is drastically hiking premium rates across the region.
CareFirst has already proposed rate increases from 3 percent to 17 percent, according to the Post. In nearby Maryland, CareFirst has requested that state regulators allow it to hike rates by up to 30.4 percent in 2016, The Baltimore Sun reports.
DC Health Link’s director, Mila Kofman, told The Post that the shrinking number of options isn’t a loss for the competitiveness of the exchange and that Aetna’s decision to leave the exchange won’t harm residents.
“When you have products when there’s not a whole lot of interest to buy, that’s the market telling the carrier what they are selling, people can’t afford. So in terms of competition, it’s not a loss,” Kofman said. “I don’t consider that real competition.”
Aetna will continue to offer employer-provided plans on the exchange — including for Congress and its staff. Federal employees make a large part of Washington’s Obamacare customers, as they are required by the health care law itself to purchase coverage on the exchange.