What You Need To Know: Health Insurance and Tax Time 2015

On November 15th, the health exchanges will open at HealthCare.gov for the second annual open enrollment period. That marks one year since families were first invited to start buying health insurance in the marketplace. Many RuFES network members joined us for a webinar series last winter to learn how they could help low-income, rural families access insurance and learn about their coverage options. Now, a year later, we’re starting to learn about the results.

The news is good. Millions of families took the opportunity to get coverage last year. Many of them were low-income, working families eligible for the premium tax credit, which helped lower the cost of their insurance premiums (Keep It Goal 8). The law also helped people with preexisting conditions buy health insurance for the first time. And, in many states, thousands of low-income individuals and families at or near the poverty line became newly eligible for Medicaid.

That was last year. So what’s new this year?

The next big change from the health care law will arrive at tax time. Two important elements of the Affordable Care Act are enacted through the tax code. The Premium Tax Credit helps lower the cost of health insurance so that low-income families can better afford coverage, and the Minimum Essential Coverage Penalty is a fee paid by individuals or families who opted not to buy a basic insurance policy in 2014. Both will have substantial impact on low-income, rural residents.

If you run a tax assistance site or do tax-time outreach, we encourage you to join tax-time/health-insurance go-to-guru, Tara Straw, for an “Everything You Need To Know” webinar series on the 2014 tax-time implications of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), hosted by EITCOutreach.org and the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. In four sessions, Straw and her colleagues will help VITA sites and outreach partners by explaining  the new tax forms, sharing practical tips for free tax prep sites, and answering your lingering ACA questions.

Here are the webinar dates and topics:

  • Part I: Introduction
    Original Air Date: October 21, 2014.
    Video of the webinar will be posted here.

    The first webinar provided an overview of the ACA.  How did it fare, given the initial enrollment challenges, and will those issues affect the tax season?  They discussed the requirement to have coverage – who it applies to and what coverage meets the minimum requirements. Finally, they talked about what messages on health insurance should be incorporated into your VITA outreach and who you should have on speed dial in preparation for the tax season.
  • Part II: Tax Penalty and Exemption
    Date: Tuesday, November 4 at 3-4pm ET
    Register here.

    The second webinar will focus on the penalty for failing to maintain health insurance coverage and exemptions from the penalty. The list of potential exemptions is lengthy. Roughly 23 million people will be eligible for an exemption and many of those will be requested on the tax return. What are the easiest options for uninsured low-income tax clients to avoid the penalty and what scenarios are you most likely to encounter in tax preparation?
  • Part III: Premium Tax Credit
    Date: Tuesday, November 18 at 3-4pm ET
    Register here.

    The third webinar will cover the premium tax credit, which provides significant financial assistance to low- and moderate-income families who purchased coverage in the health insurance marketplace. Most people eligible for the credit took it in advance and will need to calculate their final credit on their tax return. How do you do that? What advice do you give a client who owes all or part of the credit back at tax time?
  • Part IV: FAQ
    Date: December, 2014 (TBD)
    The fourth webinar will answer your questions that haven’t been addressed and share any last minute updates as the tax season approaches.

Want to know more about how you can help rural families access affordable health insurance? Check out some these resources:

RuFES is a project of the Annie E. Casey Foundation and the Aspen Institute Community Strategies Group.
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