County Pulse: Obamacare estimates released

kcarlson@modbee.comFebruary 26, 2013 

— California's Health Benefit Exchange recently gave the public estimates on the costs of buying health insurance under the Affordable Care Act. Next year, the federal law will require most adults to have health insurance. California will operate an exchange to help uninsured people who qualify to purchase subsidized insurance plans.

For a single wage-earner making $20,000 a year, the premium will run about $1,060 a year or $90 a month. A single person earning $44,680 annually won't qualify for tax credits or subsidies, but should be able to buy insurance through the exchange for about $3,400 a year or $284 a month. President Obama's health reforms disallow insurance companies from excluding people based on pre-existing health issues.

In other examples provided at www.coveredCA.com, a family of four with $40,000 in annual income will be eligible for tax credits and subsidies to help with premiium costs. That assistance will bring the cost of coverage down to $170 per month for that family. A four-member family with $80,000 in annual income will qualify for a $4,740 tax credit to help pay for insurance premiums, bringing the cost to $7,600 a year or $633 a month.

State leaders have said that California will participate in the voluntary Medicaid expansion under the federal law. That means a single person earning $15,415 a year and a family of four making $31,810 a year will qualify for the government program, which is called Medi-Cal in California.

That Medi-Cal expansion has raised concern among Stanislaus County leaders. Officials said the county health system isn't set up to care for the thousands of additional people who will enroll in Medi-Cal. Safety net clinics from Modesto to Bakersfield say they already strain to take care of their current patients.

Top county officials recently asked our state representatives from the region to go easy with the Medi-Cal expansion and more lobbying is expected from the county's statewide association.

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