Stuck with Obamacare

By Beacon Staff

At the end of the month enrollment for health insurance tax breaks will end. Many oppose the tax breaks Obamacare offers to Montanans who purchase policies at the federal online marketplace.

Since the four-year-old legislation was signed into law, Republicans and their political surrogates still demagogue health insurance reforms and tax breaks for consumers.

More than 4 million people have signed up for tax breaks for health insurance with 22,000 in Montana. That’s good news for hospitals often stuck paying for uncompensated care and insured Americans who pay extra premiums to cover others’ urgent care.

The U.S. House nearly unanimously passed three Obamacare fixes last week. They offer exemptions for companies that hire veterans, or volunteer firefighter’s exclusions, and personal religious opt outs.

Montana is currently refusing the nearly $5 billion in federal funds over five years to expand Medicaid healthcare coverage for people living below poverty. Tens of thousands of Montanans would qualify for coverage, including thousands of veterans and kids.

On the closing days of the last Montana Legislature, Republicans gleefully blocked billions of dollars in federal Medicaid funds to help poverty-earning locals gain access to the hospital.

Locally, newly redistricted Whitefish Sen. Bruce Tutvedt, Republican, and Rep. Ed Lieser, Democrat, worked toward Montana style solutions to Medicaid. The major hospitals in the state support these efforts.

In the Flathead thousands of people, including many veterans, qualify for expanded Medicaid. Primary elections are the stage for voters to view opposing ideology. Local hospitals seeking expanded federal Medicaid have a big stake in the Flathead’s primary elections.

The Republican legislative election chairman recently said that he expects Obamacare to be another big issue in the 2014 elections. Criticizing state lawmakers is not likely to fix the healthcare needs of locals or help hospitals, but Montana taxpayers pay $18,000 per biennium for a legislator’s health insurance.

After 50 attempts to repeal or defund Obamacare, even the House now works toward fixes. Though it’s difficult to forget that healthcare was used as ransom when the House shut down the government trying to defund Medicaid, forcing closure of places like Glacier National Park.

Rep. Steve Daines is cosponsoring an Obamacare fix with Rep. Todd Young that redefines full-time work. The Congressional Budget Office says it increases the deficit by $74 billion and will “reduce the number of people receiving employment-based coverage – by about 1 million people.”

Sen. John Walsh has cosponsored a bill to expand the healthcare tax credits offered to small businesses for employee policies. The CBO has yet to score the bill.

Consumers would do well to temporarily tune out the political healthcare rhetoric and check out the plans and tax breaks. Enrollment ends this month. Major insurance companies like Blue Cross Blue Shield agree that the premium tax breaks can be significant.

It’s not complicated to check how much you can save, either by phone or internet. What you see may surprise you. The federal health insurance subsidy can be thousands of dollars annually and used to purchase private coverage.

In a sharply worded letter to the editor, Missoula resident K. Poody McLaughlin wrote, “Initially we were skeptical. But the numbers don’t lie: our new monthly premium is 48 percent less that our current premium for the same level of coverage.”

The people I’ve talked to around town that enrolled for insurance online or by phone told me that the ACA tax credits are significant. And what’s more politically American than tax breaks?

While Congress is stuck on fixing Obamacare the tax breaks deadline is still the end of this month. Whether people had a preexisting condition or seek savings from upfront federal health insurance tax breaks, it’s simply a good idea to look for yourself.

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