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Advocates Urge President Obama to Fix the Families GlitchHealth
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Washington – A coalition of national and state advocates led by First Focus sent a letter Thursday to President Obama, urging the Administration to ensure that final U.S. Treasury Department Affordable Care Act (ACA) regulations make health coverage affordable for families. The letter, signed by 74 national and state advocacy organizations, comes on the heels of a report by the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO), finding that the first draft of Treasury regulations could leave care out of reach for hundreds of thousands of children and spouses.
“The president has championed reforms that would make health care better and more affordable,” said First Focus President Bruce Lesley. “To reach that goal, we need regulations that acknowledge how families actually work.”
The ACA offers tax credits to make private, employer-sponsored health insurance more affordable for working families. The law bases eligibility determinations on a comparison of the cost of the insurance and the family’s income. But the Treasury Department’s first draft of regulations implementing that provision of the ACA base that assessment on the cost of insuring the employee alone, instead of the cost of family coverage. While individual-only employer-sponsored health insurance costs average around $5,400 a year, annual costs for family coverage average $15,000 – nearly triple. If not clarified by the Administration, this interpretation would likely leave hundreds of thousands of children as well as their non-employee parents ineligible for tax credits or subsidized coverage in the health insurance Exchanges.
“As a dad, I’d never build a groceries budget based only on me – my wife and the kids eat too. We should expect at least that level of economic analysis from the Treasury Department,” said Lesley.
A Government Accountability Office (GAO) report publicized this week, “Children’ Health Insurance: Opportunities Exist for Improved Access to Affordable Insurance,” called on the Treasury Department to consider the impact of applying the ACA’s “affordability” test to individual coverage only. GAO recommended that the Treasury Department assess whether the standard proposed is consistent with ACA’s goal to ensure the availability of affordable health coverage.
Advocates who signed the letter to President Obama made the same point. The letter was signed by 27 national advocates for children and families, women, communities of color, educators, low- and moderate-income families, chronic disease patients, health care consumers, and health care providers, as well as 47 state and local advocacy organizations from 29 states.
“The GAO reached the same conclusion as advocates for kids and families, health care providers, and health care consumers: that fixing this problem is critical to any effective implementation of the Affordable Care Act,” said Lesley.