The cost of the individual mandate is nothing compared to the cost of a decent health insurance plan. People are not enrolling in health insurance because it is too damn expensive. I don’t know what percentage of the decline in new enrollments for Covered California is due to expensive health insurance and they don’t know either. Talk to any health insurance agent they will tell you they fielded many calls from consumers wanting a lower rate on health insurance. They were willing to take anything, even if crappiest of plans if they could just afford it. I don’t sell them, but I had to inform people of the health care sharing ministries. These health care sharing plans are not insurance, but they can seem like a health plan for half the cost of a Covered California plan. How many people enrolled in these health care sharing plans and by-passed Covered California and the off-exchange plans altogether?
Where a primary source of confusion starts to creep into the preliminary eligibility determination for either Medi-Cal or Covered California hinges on when the new FPL amounts are considered for eligibility. This is where the rules concerning determining eligibility are not necessarily aligned between Medi-Cal and Covered California. The rules put forth by the ACA govern how Covered California applies the FPL amounts for determining eligibility for the Premium Tax Credit subsidy, which are slightly different than Medi-Cal. The Department of Health Care Services, the agency that administers Medi-Cal, must abide by older federal rules for eligibility determinations.
Basically, the redesigned 2018 form 1040 has made it more difficult to quickly locate all the necessary information for estimating a household’s MAGI. Virtually all of the dollar amounts were listed on the first page of the old form 1040. Now Covered California participants will have to review page 2 of the 1040 and Schedule 1 income and deductions to get most of the information for their estimated MAGI.
Even though the Covered California programs indicated one subsidy amount, a higher amount was actually applied to the first family member’s health insurance premium. It is clear from the displays that Covered California is applying too much APTC. In the first illustration, John was eligible for $272.12 per month, but Covered California applied $377.12.
When your son or daughter is earning money from a job, but still living at home, it can be a bit confusing when applying for health insurance through Covered California. When do you count your child’s income for Medi-Cal or Covered California? Should your child have their own health plan? Do they file their own taxes? Are they still going to school?
So here is the third subsidy bonus for large families. Not only are you billed for only three children, but you get a larger subsidy based on the entire household size. When you combine that with the inflated Silver plan rates, relative to the lower off-exchange Silver plans, large families get a nice subsidy to lower their health insurance premiums. You don’t pay for any more than three children, but you get the Premium Tax Credit as if the whole family were being billed for health insurance.
Upon review, the consumer was now listed as an American Indian or Alaska Native, there was no selection for current health insurance or Medicare enrollment, and the application showed a higher income than we had estimated for 2019. This is not the first time I have seen individuals and whole families being flipped into American Indian or Alaska Native designation. As mentioned earlier, Covered California seems to automatically erase the current health plan information during the renewal. But this was not a renewal, just a correction to Medi-Cal eligibility.
The proposed rule is complicated and has many conditions and exclusions. Because of this complexity, many individuals and families with lawful permanent status, and enrolled in Covered California, or who have children enrolled in Medi-Cal, are fearful as being labeled as a Public Charge. Covered California has sought to allay the fears of people who might be affected by the proposed rule that their participation in Covered California and monthly premium tax credit subsidy they receive will not adversely impact their status.
Not all family members have to have the same carrier either. Some family members can enroll with a more expensive PPO plan while other individuals enroll in an HMO from the same company or completely different carrier. I have clients where some family members have chosen the Blue Shield PPO plan and other household members are with a less expensive Kaiser plan.
Once all the income is entered in the different sections of the Covered California application, the program has a little link titled, Click here if this looks wrong. That takes you to the Adjust Project Annual Income (PAI) window. You can then type in an amount that is higher or lower than the number calculated from the income sections. Unfortunately, once you have used the PAI feature, the Covered California system won’t alert you to the override if you need to update your income in the future.