As Obamacare continues to take effect, and states across the country prepare to launch their health insurance marketplaces by 2014, Americans will soon be able to receive tax subsidies to help them afford their health care plans. That represents one of the health law’s most important initiatives to help ensure that everyone has access to insurance. And, according to a new study from the health care advocacy group Families USA, it’s a provision that will mainly help America’s working poor and middle class.
The Americans whose annual incomes fall between 138 percent and 400 percent of the federal poverty level — which translates to single adults earning less than $46,000 and families of four earning less than $94,000 — will be eligible for Obamacare’s subsidies. Families USA crunched the numbers to find that means about 25.7 million people will soon be able to better afford the high cost of health care. And the vast majority of those people are working Americans, who have tended to struggle to get by in the face of growing income inequality since the Great Recession:
“This reaches deeply into the middle class, as well as moderate-income families,” said Ron Pollack, founding executive director of Families USA, which released the national report. “This is a group that’s really deserving of priority help.” [...]
Most Americans, Pollack said, don’t know how the exchanges will work or that they are eligible for financial help to pay for insurance. That’s why Families USA released the report, he said.
The report shows that families that make between $47,000 and $94,000 will receive half the money, that 88% of the credits will go to working families, and that those up to the age of 36 are most likely to be eligible. Families USA did not include people who fall below 138% of the poverty line because, in the states that will expand Medicaid, they will not need subsidies.
As everyday Americans have struggled to get back on their feet after the economic downturn, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act — colloquially known as the stimulus — went a long way toward helping lower- and middle-class families regain stability. As Families USA’s new report illustrates, the health care reform law is another federal policy that holds promise for that sector of the population as the country continues to slowly make its way toward recovery.
That’s especially true considering that the cost of health insurance plans has skyrocketed at the same time as American workers’ wages have stagnated. That means low-income Americans are increasingly delaying the health care they need because they can’t afford it. For example, poorer Americans are twice as likely as the people at higher income levels to skip out on their medication to save money. Thanks to Obamacare, many of those Americans will no longer be forced to prioritize their other bills over their health care.
But, as Pollack points out, the majority of the general public still doesn’t realize exactly how the state-level marketplaces will work or how this particular Obamacare provision will directly benefit their families. That fits into the larger national trend about Americans’ persistent misperpections about the benefits of health care reform. Health care advocates point out that there’s still a long way to go when it comes to educating Americans about what the Affordable Care Act actually does for them — thanks, in large part, to the politicized misinformation campaign that has been waged against it over the past three years.