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HealthCare Checkup

The Seattle Times health-care team tracks the local impact of the Affordable Care Act.

March 27, 2014 at 10:18 AM

Washington ranks high for getting lower-income residents insured

Washington is one of the top states for getting people who qualify for tax credits signed up for health insurance. Roughly one-third of the residents with incomes low enough to get a tax break have bought insurance through the state’s insurance exchange.

The number is significant because supporters of the Affordable Care Act are eager to reach people who need help paying their insurance premiums.

Washington residents will receive more than $285 million in tax credits to reduce the amount of their premiums, according to a new report from the Kaiser Family Foundation based on data ending March 1. This amount will increase, given that Americans can buy individual insurance plans until March 31 when open enrollment closes for this year.

Source: Kaiser Family Foundation.

Source: Kaiser Family Foundation.

Approximately 3.5 million people nationwide have qualified for $10 billion in tax subsidies, according to the research.

Washington ranks fifth nationally for signing up the largest fraction of tax-break eligible residents. And in fact, the state almost certainly rates even higher. That’s because most other states include all completed insurance applications in their tally of enrollees, while Washington tracks the number of people who have enrolled and made their first premium payment — a higher bar to clear.

Tax credits generally are available to people earning between one to four times the federal poverty level (people in Washington with incomes below the poverty level qualify for free health care through Medicaid). An income four times the poverty level is $45,960 for a single person and $94,200 for a family of four. The tax credits are used to reduce the cost of insurance premiums.

Roughly eight of 10 people buying insurance through Washington Healthplanfinder qualify for a subsidy, and the average amount is $3,280.

More than 125,000 people have bought insurance from the exchange, according to state data ending March 23.

Additionally, people buying “silver” level plans — those with roughly middle-of-the-road benefits — might also be eligible for subsidies that reduce their out-of-pocket expenses such as deductibles or co-pays.

People can also buy insurance outside of the exchange, shopping through brokers or directly from insurance companies. However, only insurance sold through the exchanges are eligible for tax subsidies.


Comments | Topics: Affordable Care Act, health insurance, tax credit


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