Nearly 1.7 million Floridians could qualify for federal subsidies to buy private health insurance on the online marketplace created by the Affordable Care Act, according to a study released Tuesday by a national consumer group. More than a quarter-million Tampa Bay area residents could qualify.
While most of the debate on the federal law has focused on Medicaid expansion for the poorest adults, the new report from Families USA emphasizes the law's impact on working people with more moderate incomes.
"The tax credit subsidies are a game changer," said Ron Pollack, executive director of Families USA, in a conference call with reporters.
Meanwhile, another national group issued a report Tuesday saying states like Florida that have a lot of uninsured people should expect big increases in the cost of medical claims as more people get coverage.
Nearly 90 percent of Floridians who would get assistance buying insurance are employed, with incomes between two and four times the poverty level, according to the report.
That means annual incomes of between $47,100 and $94,200 for families of four. A single person who makes between $16,000 and $46,000 would also qualify.
The subsidies come in the form of tax credits people will get when they purchase coverage, so they won't have to wait until their taxes are filed. Credits are determined on a sliding scale, with the lowest-income residents getting the largest credit, up to $10,000 a year.
The federal government will run exchanges in Florida and other states that refused to set up their own. Open enrollment starts Oct. 1; coverage begins in 2014. Qualified people can get the tax credits for premiums, unless they can get affordable coverage at work — meaning their share is no more than 9.5 percent of household income.
Employers have an incentive to shop for cheaper insurance, since those with more than 50 workers face fines if their employees qualify for the credits and use them on the exchange.
Meanwhile, another report released Tuesday concluded most states, including Florida, will see double-digit increases in health insurance claims for individual policies. Much of the reason: sicker people who are insured for the first time, according to a study by the nation's leading group of financial risk analysts.
The Obama administration questioned the Society of Actuaries study, saying it ignored cost-relief strategies in the law. It also addresses only individual policies, not group policies where most Americans get coverage.
The online exchanges will offer a range of plans with four different coverage levels: bronze, silver, gold and platinum. The size of the credits was calculated using the second-lowest-cost "silver" plan.
The Families USA report provides several scenarios of how the tax credits might work.
For instance, in the case of a single person with no children who makes $23,000 a year, the out-of-pocket contribution toward a $5,000 annual premium would be about $1,450. The remainder would be covered by a $3,550 tax credit. A single person who makes $45,960 a year could receive a $630 credit if they purchased a plan with a $5,000 annual premium.
Joining Pollack on the conference call were two Florida members of Congress, Reps. Kathy Castor and Debbie Wasserman Schultz.
Castor, a Tampa Democrat, noted that recent polls show many Americans still don't know much about how the Affordable Care Act affects them. "This is going to be very important that we help educate all our neighbors," she said.
Information from the Associated Press was used in this report. Jodie Tillman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (813) 226-3374.