KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Study: Just 1 In 5 Eligible For Premium Subsidies Seek Coverage

Sign-up rates varied greatly by state, with more than half of the $10 billion allotted so far going to consumers in California, Florida, North Carolina, Texas and New York, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation study. Meanwhile, the Treasury Department allows battered spouses filing separate income taxes to claim subsidies. Also, Merck and GlaxoSmithKline hold off on helping Obamacare enrollees with copays.

Kaiser Health News: Capsules: Consumers Get $10B In Subsidies For Health Coverage, Study Finds
Americans have already qualified for about $10 billion in tax credits to help them purchase private health insurance this year through the Affordable Care Act, according to a study from the Kaiser Family Foundation. ... But four of five Americans who could qualify for a subsidy hadn’t applied for coverage by [March 1]. And sign-up rates varied greatly by state. More than half of the subsidy money allotted so far will go to consumers in California, Florida, North Carolina, Texas and New York (Gold, 3/27).

The Texas Tribune: Report: Texas Leaves ACA Premium Subsidies On Table
Texans have received an estimated $591 million in premium subsidies to help pay for health insurance through the federal marketplace, but they have left millions of dollars in additional funding on the table, according to a new report by the Kaiser Family Foundation. As of March 1, the state had 295,000 marketplace enrollees, a large portion of whom have received federal subsidies to help pay for health coverage through the Affordable Care Act (Ura, 3/26).

Politico Pro: Report: Obamacare Subsidies Aren’t Drawing Many Takers
Just 1 in 5 people eligible for premium subsidies on the federal- and state-run health insurance exchanges had applied for coverage through February, according to a new Kaiser Family Foundation analysis. The rate is far lower in Iowa, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and the Dakotas, where Kaiser found only that only 1 in 10 subsidy-eligible individuals — if that — had signed up for a plan. The most robust numbers came in states running their own exchanges, including Washington (32 percent), Connecticut (39 percent), California (40 percent), Rhode Island (41 percent) and Vermont (50 percent). These states, Kaiser noted, have devoted extra resources to outreach and consumer assistance (Villacorta, 3/27).

The CT Mirror: Obamacare Affordability Worries, Confusion Persist As Deadline Nears
A reader from Florida wrote in with a question: “How can I afford Obamacare with a job that pays less than $8?” Several readers from across the country have asked similar questions, reflecting a longstanding concern about the federal health law, as well as some confusion about who will face a penalty for not having insurance. From the start, affordability has been a major concern of both critics and supporters of the law officially called the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Supporters point to the financial assistance available to help millions of Americans pay their premiums, allowing many people to buy coverage at dramatically discounted prices. Critics, meanwhile, note that in many cases, insurance prices have increased, and that nearly all Americans are now required to have coverage or pay a penalty (Becker, 3/26).

The Wall Street Journal: Merck, Glaxo Hold Off On Help With Affordable Care Act Copays
Merck & Co. and GlaxoSmithKline are holding off on providing help with out-of-pocket drug costs to people insured under the Affordable Care Act, while other pharmaceutical companies go ahead, amid mixed signals about whether the copay assistance is legal. The help is a staple of pharmaceutical-industry marketing to people insured by commercial health plans (Rockoff, 3/26).

The Washington Post: Battered Spouses Can Claim Subsidies For Health Insurance
The decision, announced by Treasury Department officials Wednesday, is an attempt to resolve a long-percolating controversy over access to the subsidies. The 2010 Affordable Care Act created these tax credits for people buying coverage through federal and state insurance exchanges — the first time the government has helped many Americans pay for private insurance. But the law says that married people may get such help only if they file their taxes jointly (Goldstein, 3/26).

CQ HealthBeat: Health Subsidies Extended to Married Victims of Domestic Abuse
Democratic lawmakers claimed victory Wednesday after the Obama administration announced new guidance designed to ensure that married domestic abuse victims who file their taxes separately from their spouses can receive subsidies under the health care law. Sens. Mark Begich of Alaska and Patty Murray of Washington each wrote separate letters to the administration urging swift action on the issue, while Reps. Louise M. Slaugter of New York, Lloyd Doggett of Texas and 75 other Democrats sent a similar letter from the House (Attias, 3/36).

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