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Healthcare reform could leave many low-income Americans in tricky spot

Health Care Reform and Policy
by David Dillon
Final hours before enrollment deadline see surge
Final hours before enrollment deadline see surge

The Affordable Care Act is designed to help millions of Americans obtain health insurance coverage to which they might not have had access in the past. New research, though, shows that many of the nation's most economically disadvantaged people could be left in the lurch.

The ACA has assistance programs built into it that allow consumers with low income levels within a certain range to obtain tax credits to help them cover for the cost of their new insurance policies. However, it seems that many of these people might not be able to pay their premiums for a different reason, according to new research from Jackson Hewitt Tax Service. In all, more than one-quarter of all low-income, non-elderly consumers whose household incomes make them eligible for these tax credits and do not currently have insurance also do not have checking accounts in their names.

The problem with this fact is that many of the nation's largest insurance companies, which will likely be participating in federal exchange programs and therefore giving these uninsured and unbanked Americans options, require that people holding the policies they issue must pay their premiums by check or automatic deductions from such an account every month, the report said. As a result, a significant number of Americans - who are likely avoiding ownership of checking accounts in their names because of high costs - may have difficulties in dealing with their ability to pay for the coverage they will be required by law to have.

This will be problematic for a number of groups in particular, the report said. For instance, African American and Hispanic consumers are about 40 percent more likely to be unbanked than white Americans in the same income group, and as many as 5 million veterans and people receiving federal benefits through prepaid debit cards will likely not be able to use those accounts to pay premiums. Moreover, 11 of the 12 states with the largest populations of unbanked consumers eligible for tax credits will have their exchanges run by the federal, and not state, government.

Companies that have workers who might be unbanked and are eligible for tax credits may want to consider the ways in which they can approach the situation so that they can receive the best possible health insurance coverage given their statuses.



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