[ {"id":"c499f6e9-f612-5839-8b13-a83b430f9cc9","type":"article","starttime":"1428535800","starttime_iso8601":"2015-04-08T16:30:00-07:00","lastupdated":"1454376068","priority":40,"sections":[{"affordable-care-act":"special-section/affordable-care-act"},{"local":"news/local"},{"health-med-fit":"news/science/health-med-fit"}],"flags":{"web_only":"true"},"application":"editorial","title":"Rate of uininsured Pima County residents plunges, officials say","url":"http://tucson.com/special-section/affordable-care-act/article_c499f6e9-f612-5839-8b13-a83b430f9cc9.html","permalink":"http://tucson.com/special-section/affordable-care-act/rate-of-uininsured-pima-county-residents-plunges-officials-say/article_c499f6e9-f612-5839-8b13-a83b430f9cc9.html","canonical":"http://tucson.com/special-section/affordable-care-act/rate-of-uininsured-pima-county-residents-plunges-officials-say/article_c499f6e9-f612-5839-8b13-a83b430f9cc9.html","relatedAssetCounts":{"article":0,"audio":0,"image":1,"link":0,"vmix":0,"youtube":0,"gallery":0},"byline":"By Stephanie Innes\nArizona Daily Star","prologue":"Percentage of uninsured residents dropped from 17 percent to 10 percent between 2013 and 2014, officials say.","supportsComments":true,"commentCount":0,"keywords":[],"internalKeywords":["#latest","#photoside"],"customProperties":{},"images":[{"id":"47361db7-199e-5287-9554-cee9dbbb6999","description":"Dr. Francisco Garc\u00eda","byline":"Pima County Communications","versions":{"full":{"type":"image/jpeg","width":"413","height":"619","url":"http://bloximages.chicago2.vip.townnews.com/tucson.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/4/73/47361db7-199e-5287-9554-cee9dbbb6999/54f5f3d6d2a2d.image.jpg?resize=413%2C619"},"100": {"type":"image/jpeg","width":"100","height":"150","url":"http://bloximages.chicago2.vip.townnews.com/tucson.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/4/73/47361db7-199e-5287-9554-cee9dbbb6999/54f5f3d6df7a9.preview-100.jpg"},"300": {"type":"image/jpeg","width":"300","height":"450","url":"http://bloximages.chicago2.vip.townnews.com/tucson.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/4/73/47361db7-199e-5287-9554-cee9dbbb6999/54f5f3d6e0138.preview-300.jpg"},"1024":{"type":"image/jpeg","width":"1024","height":"576","url":"http://bloximages.chicago2.vip.townnews.com/tucson.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/4/73/47361db7-199e-5287-9554-cee9dbbb6999/54f5f3d6d2a2d.image.jpg?crop=409%2C230%2C0%2C184"}}}],"revision":10,"commentID":"c499f6e9-f612-5839-8b13-a83b430f9cc9","body":"

Local health officials celebrated a drop in the number of Pima County residents without health insurance Wednesday as they marked the five-year anniversary of the Affordable Care Act.

The most recent data from the grassroots organization Enroll America show the rate of uninsured Pima County residents dropped from 17 percent to 10 percent between 2013 and 2014, when most provisions of the federal law took effect, including the requirement that all Americans have health insurance.

\u201cTen percent is almost unheard of. When I started in this position and for most of my time practicing at the U (University of Arizona), the uninsurance rate in Pima County has been 20 percent,\u201d said Dr. Francisco Garcia, director of the Pima County Health Department.

\u201cTo cut that in half is beyond my wildest dreams. I can\u2019t overemphasize what a huge achievement this is. This has been a game changer,\u201d he said.

Garcia was among dozens of local and federal health officials who attended an outdoor rally at Tucson Medical Center Wednesday morning to mark the five-year anniversary of Congress passing the act.

Since then, 205,666 Arizonans have signed up for health insurance through the federal marketplace, which gives federal subsidies to those who qualify for them.

Another 224,230 people have signed up for Medicaid via an expansion and restoration of childless adults to the program, also part of the Affordable Care Act. Medicaid is a government health insurance program for low-income people. In Arizona it is called the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System, or AHCCCS.

\u201cUntil President Obama fought for and signed the Affordable Care Act, for decades millions of Americans lacked security of health care \u2014 and thousands in this community,\u201d said Elizabeth \u201cBess\u201d Evans, associate director of the White House Office of Public Engagement, who also was in Tucson for the event. \u201cAnd five years after this law has come into fruition, millions of working families have gained that economic security.\u201d

One of those gaining coverage was Tucsonan Gina Da Vita, who works two jobs but hadn\u2019t had health insurance for more than 10 years when she got a plan through the federal marketplace in late 2013.

\u201cFor many years I could not afford health insurance. It was just not affordable,\u201d she said.

Da Vita, 51, found a plan for $104 per month and said she has more peace of mind than in the past when she used to often worry about getting sick.

Sixteen million Americans now have access to coverage that they did not previously have, Evans said. Millions of people under the age of 26 have been able to stay on their parents\u2019 plans, and women are no longer paying more for coverage, she said.

Garcia says the Affordable Care Act is the most crucial and important local anti-poverty measure.

But he later noted the threats to the gains that have been made. In addition to a state challenge to Arizona\u2019s Medicaid expansion, a case under consideration with the U.S. Supreme Court could upend health insurance coverage in Arizona.

The nation\u2019s high court is expected to rule on King v. Burwell in June. The case will determine whether federal subsidies are legal in the 34 states, including Arizona, that chose not to create their own health insurance marketplaces. Some experts say under a ruling in the plaintiff\u2019s favor, the entire federal health exchange could fall apart.

\u201cThat would have a very important impact on us,\u201d Garcia said.

And a bill on Gov. Doug Ducey\u2019s desk, recently passed by the Legislature, would prohibit Arizona from setting up its own health exchange.

"}, {"id":"a31229ee-0e5b-5d26-95b5-2e59e989f96a","type":"article","starttime":"1420941600","starttime_iso8601":"2015-01-10T19:00:00-07:00","lastupdated":"1454376068","priority":38,"sections":[{"special-section":"special-section"},{"affordable-care-act":"special-section/affordable-care-act"},{"business":"business"},{"local":"business/local"},{"local":"news/local"}],"flags":{"web_only":"true"},"application":"editorial","title":"This year, health insurance must be reported on tax returns","url":"http://tucson.com/special-section/article_a31229ee-0e5b-5d26-95b5-2e59e989f96a.html","permalink":"http://tucson.com/special-section/this-year-health-insurance-must-be-reported-on-tax-returns/article_a31229ee-0e5b-5d26-95b5-2e59e989f96a.html","canonical":"http://tucson.com/special-section/this-year-health-insurance-must-be-reported-on-tax-returns/article_a31229ee-0e5b-5d26-95b5-2e59e989f96a.html","relatedAssetCounts":{"article":0,"audio":0,"image":1,"link":0,"vmix":0,"youtube":0,"gallery":0},"byline":"By Stephanie Innes\nArizona Daily Star","prologue":"Tax Form 1095-A verifies marketplace health insurance.","supportsComments":true,"commentCount":0,"keywords":[],"internalKeywords":["#top5biz","#latest","#toptwo","#topread"],"customProperties":{},"images":[{"id":"72cdf6c6-4b7a-5277-9759-01579337a436","description":"Don Valdez, a health insurance navigator, uses a projection on a screen to explain health insurance options to Arizona residents including the Affordable Care Act at the Cochise College Benson Center on December 9, 2014.","byline":"A.E. Araiza / Arizona Daily Star","versions":{"full":{"type":"image/jpeg","width":"620","height":"380","url":"http://bloximages.chicago2.vip.townnews.com/tucson.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/7/2c/72cdf6c6-4b7a-5277-9759-01579337a436/54b0659915e7f.image.jpg?resize=620%2C380"},"100": {"type":"image/jpeg","width":"100","height":"61","url":"http://bloximages.chicago2.vip.townnews.com/tucson.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/7/2c/72cdf6c6-4b7a-5277-9759-01579337a436/54b0659922348.preview-100.jpg"},"300": {"type":"image/jpeg","width":"300","height":"184","url":"http://bloximages.chicago2.vip.townnews.com/tucson.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/7/2c/72cdf6c6-4b7a-5277-9759-01579337a436/54b06599233e2.preview-300.jpg"},"1024":{"type":"image/jpeg","width":"1024","height":"628","url":"http://bloximages.chicago2.vip.townnews.com/tucson.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/7/2c/72cdf6c6-4b7a-5277-9759-01579337a436/54b0659915e7f.image.jpg"}}}],"revision":17,"commentID":"a31229ee-0e5b-5d26-95b5-2e59e989f96a","body":"

A reminder about this year\u2019s tax season: The Internal Revenue Service needs to know whether you had health insurance in 2014.

Most provisions of the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act took effect last January, including a mandate that Americans have health insurance. And that needs to be reported on tax returns.

\u201cEverybody is going to be affected by this,\u201d said Ken Briggs, senior director of community development at the United Way of Tucson and Southern Arizona, which gives free tax assistance to low- and moderate-income families and individuals.

Some will be more affected than others.

For most people, reporting on their health status will require a simple check of a box verifying that they had health insurance in 2014.

But for people who have coverage through the federal marketplace (healthcare.gov) or who didn\u2019t have health insurance for all of last year, there will be some additional steps in the year\u2019s tax filing process.

Form 1095-A

Arizonans whose health insurance in 2014 was purchased through the federal marketplace (healthcare.gov), must have a new document called Form 1095-A to file with their taxes this year. Trying to file taxes without that form will be an exercise in frustration, Briggs said.

The forms are expected to be sent through the mail to consumers by Jan. 31, but they will also be posted on consumers\u2019 healthcare.gov accounts, federal officials say.

People who received subsidies to buy private insurance through the marketplace will also need to ensure their actual income in 2014 matched the estimate they gave when they purchased the insurance. If not, they will need to reconcile the amounts on their taxes.

Telling the truth

Most tax filers don\u2019t have health insurance through the marketplace, however, and won\u2019t need to wait for Form 1095-A.

Rather, they have insurance through an employer or a government program like Medicare or Medicaid (AHCCCS). Those people will need to check a box on their tax return indicating they had health coverage in 2014.

\u201cIt\u2019s important to remember they are under a penalty of perjury,\u201d Briggs said. \u201cSo people need to be completely honest. Otherwise it very likely could catch up to them.\u201d

Penalty exemptions

People who did not have health insurance are not necessarily subject to a penalty, Briggs stressed.

Members of federally recognized tribes and people who were uninsured for less than three months of the year qualify for a penalty exemption.

And there are numerous qualifying reasons for a \u201chardship exemption\u201d such as a bankruptcy filing, homelessness, or experiencing the death of a close family member.

A list of qualifying hardship exemptions is available at healthcare.gov/fees-exemptions/hardship-exemptions online.

It\u2019s important for those seeking an exemption to the penalty to know that there are two types of exemptions \u2014 one claimed on the tax return and the other claimed through the marketplace.

Taxpayers who qualify for an exemption through the marketplace should apply as soon as possible for an Exemption Certificate Number (ECN), which must be included in the tax return, United Way officials say. It may take 30 to 90 days to receive an ECN.

Other exemptions can be claimed directly on the federal income tax return and don\u2019t require an ECN. Those exemptions are granted to people who, among other things, can prove coverage was unaffordable, people living abroad and certain non-citizens.

More detail is available from the IRS at irs.gov/Affordable-Care-Act/Individuals-and-Families/ACA-Individual-Shared-Responsibility-Provision-Exemptions online.

Paying the fine

People who don\u2019t qualify for an exemption to the health insurance requirement for 2014 will pay a penalty via their income tax return.

The penalty is determined by one of two calculations, whichever is greater \u2014 $95 per person per year and $47.50 per child under 18, for a maximum per family penalty of $285; or 1 percent of the yearly taxable (adjusted gross) household income.

For an uninsured married couple with two uninsured children under the age of 18 and an adjusted annual income of $55,000, for example, the penalty would be $347.

The penalties will increase in 2015 and 2016. Using the same example, if the family earnings remain the same each year and both children remain under the age of 18, the family would pay approximately $975 in 2015 and $2,085 in 2016.

Getting help

\u201cIt\u2019s important for people to understand their situation if they haven\u2019t had insurance. They really should see the exemptions on healthcare.gov \u2014 it may be worth it,\u201d Briggs said.

\u201cLow- to moderate-income folks should seek assistance from VITA. It is a free service to the community with trained individuals of low and moderate income.\u201d

VITA stands for the Volunteer Income Tax Assistant Program.

Briggs stressed that if people were not covered in 2014, it\u2019s not too late to get coverage for 2015. The deadlines for enrolling in plans through the marketplace is Feb. 15.

Officials with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services say they are going to launch resources in the next few weeks to help consumers prepare for tax filing season.

The government will be directly reaching out to marketplace enrollees through email, phone, and text messages.

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