Health care help is on the way for millions of Californians -- especially for working families.
Out of 28.6 million Americans who will qualify for new tax cuts that will help pay for the cost of private health insurance in 2014, close to 3.5 million of them are in California.
Of 3,473,000 eligible Californians, 1,741,200 are uninsured. Another 1,731,800 have health insurance, but have a tough time paying for their coverage, according to a report released Tuesday by Families USA, a national nonprofit.
The benefits outlined in the report will emerge in the new federal health care law.
Those tax cuts are estimated to reduce nationwide income taxes by $110 billion in 2014. They'll be provided through tax credits to help offset a portion of health insurance premiums, according to the report. In California alone, the tax reductions will be about $13.8 billion during the same year.
Kathleen Stoll, director of health policy and deputy executive director for the nonprofit, said the tax credits are meant to "protect individuals and families without having to spend much on premiums." She said the vast majority of Californians who will be eligible for the credits are working families. "The tax credits target middle- and lower-income families," she said during a media teleconference. "Lower income families will get a larger tax credit. This really is one of the largest middle-income tax cuts in history."
Anthony Wright, executive director of Health Access California, said during the teleconference he was pleased with the action taken by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger last Thursday when he signed two pieces of health care reform legislation. They made the state the first in the country to create a Health Benefit Exchange entity. The entity, which will administer the tax credits, will help consumers and small businesses buy health insurance at a competitive rate. "Not only will the new health reform provide affordable coverage, but it will give people the bargaining power to get the best price," he said. "That is why it was important for the governor to act last week."
Wright said people in California are more likely to be uninsured than in 45 other states, and they also are less likely to get covered by their employers.
Some 18.8 percent, or 45,512 people, in Merced County are uninsured, according to the U.S. Census Bureau 2009 American Community Survey, released last week. That represents a drop from last year's figure of 20 percent.
Christine Noguera, deputy CEO of Golden Valley Health Centers, said between 25 and 30 percent of their patients are uninsured. She said people have lost their health coverage because they lost their job, or because their working hours were reduced from full-time to part-time. "What we are seeing is new people who don't have insurance due to the lack of employment," she said.
Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Los Angeles, and chairman of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, said during the teleconference that the report by Families USA highlights one of the key benefits families will see under the new federal health care law. "The report is very valuable," he said. "We need to educate people on what's in the law."
Stay tuned: more changes will surface as a result of the law.
To view a copy of the report, visit www.familiesusa.org.
Reporter Yesenia Amaro can be reached at (209) 388-6507, or firstname.lastname@example.org.