Report: Many Uninsured African-Americans May be Eligible for Health Insurance Financial Assistance

A new report finds that  six out of ten (4.2 million) uninsured African Americans who may be eligible for coverage through the Health Insurance Marketplace might qualify for Medicaid, the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), or tax credits to help with the cost of premiums.  According to the report, if all states took advantage of new opportunities to expand Medicaid many more African-Americans would be covered.

Under the Affordable Care Act, states have new opportunities to expand Medicaid coverage to include Americans with family incomes at or below 133 percent of the federal poverty level (generally $31,322 for a family of four in 2013). This expansion includes adults without dependent children living at home, who have not previously been eligible in most states. As of December 11, 2013, 26 states have expanded Medicaid, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation, which is tracking states’ actions.

The HHS report found that 2.2 million eligible uninsured African American adults with family incomes below 100 percent of the federal poverty level live in states that are not expanding Medicaid. The number of uninsured African Americans who may be eligible for access to health coverage at a lower cost would increase from 60 to 95 percent if all states adopted the Medicaid expansion.

“The health care law is working to address long standing disparities in health care coverage and improve the health of the African American community,” said Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius.

The report also provides estimates of what premiums might cost for African Americans living in major metropolitan areas.  One fifth of uninsured African American citizens and permanent residents live in the greater Atlanta, New York, Chicago, Dallas, Houston and Detroit metropolitan areas.

According to examples in the report,  a 27-year-old in Atlanta with an income of $25,000 can pay as little as $105 a month for a bronze plan after applying the health care law’s tax credit, while a family of four with an income of $50,000 could pay $148 a month for a bronze plan after applying the tax credit. Health plans under the Affordable Care Act are broken into five categories, bronze, silver, gold, platinum and catastrophic. The bronze plan generally has the lowest premium for a comprehensive care plan, but cost sharing when care is delivered may be higher than with other tiers.

Two other significant changes for people purchasing health insurance under the Affordable Care Act were announced this week:

America’s Health Insurance Plans, the trade association for many health insurers,  announced that people who sign up for health coverage by the end of December have until January 10th to pay their premiums, with coverage retroactive to January 1, 2014. Previously premiums had to be paid by December 31.

And the White House announced today that people whose health insurance plans will not be renewed for 2013 will be allowed to buy lower-cost catastrophic care plans, and not have to pay a penalty that will be assessed for people whose plans were not cancelled but buy the catastrophic plans.

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