Deadline to clear up health law eligibility nears

Published On: Aug 13 2014 07:10:41 AM EDT
Updated On: Aug 13 2014 07:25:05 AM EDT
MIAMI -

Nearly 100,000 Floridians who bought health insurance through the Affordable Care Act could have their taxpayer-subsidized coverage cancelled if they don't send citizenship and immigration documents to confirm their eligibility by Sept. 5.

Federal health officials sent out letters in English and Spanish to consumers Tuesday warning there was an inconsistency between what they wrote on their health insurance application and the immigration and citizenship information that the feds have on record. Officials will reach out to consumers two more times by phone and once via email before the deadline. The documents must be submitted by Sept. 5 or coverage will end Sept. 30.

Many consumers have already been contacted five to seven times, but still haven't responded, senior health officials said on a conference call Tuesday.

Of the 8 million people around the country who signed up for private coverage through President Barack Obama's law, more than 2 million at one point had discrepancies of one sort or another that could have affected their eligibility. That number has been greatly reduced - but the remaining cases are proving difficult to untangle.

Nearly 1 million U.S. consumers have immigration-related inconsistencies with their applications. The feds have closed 450,000 cases and another 210,000 are in progress. But 310,000 consumers haven't submitted any documents, including 93,800 in Florida.

Florida has the highest number, followed by Texas with 52,700, according to data from federal health officials.

The issue highlights concerns from the law's opponents who warned that fraudsters would find a way to game the system the same way they've infiltrated the Medicare and Medicaid programs.

The inconsistencies addressed Tuesday only apply to immigration issues. Problems with income verification will be handled later.

The new health law provides subsidized coverage to people with no access to health insurance on the job. More than 90 percent of the nearly 1 million Floridians who signed up are getting subsidies to help with their premiums and, in some cases, their copays and deductibles as well.

But those taxpayer subsidies are contingent on meeting a host of requirements. Illegal immigrants are not allowed to get coverage. And the amount of a consumer's premium tax credit can vary by income, family size, hometown and other factors. That can make getting covered through the law feel somewhat like doing your taxes.

Local health advocates who helped enroll consumers said they're going to libraries and other community events to help get the word out.

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