National

Feds offer lifeline to 115,000 facing loss of health coverage

Keith Ward, from left, Deborah Owens, and Gwen Vinson help clients navigate the Affordable Care Act and choose the right plan at Urban Ministries in Raleigh, N.C., on Oct. 30, 2013. (Robert Willett/Raleigh News & Observer/MCT)
Keith Ward, from left, Deborah Owens, and Gwen Vinson help clients navigate the Affordable Care Act and choose the right plan at Urban Ministries in Raleigh, N.C., on Oct. 30, 2013. (Robert Willett/Raleigh News & Observer/MCT) MCT

After failing to respond to multiple outreach attempts, more than 100,000 people could lose their federal marketplace health coverage on Sept. 30, while more than three times that many could see their premiums increase, if they fail to verify their income, U.S. residency or immigration status as required by the Obama administration.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced the deadline on Monday when it began sending out cancellation warnings to 115,000 people in 36 states who haven’t yet provided the proper citizenship and immigration documents with their applications for coverage.

Another 279,000 households _ representing 363,000 people _ will receive similar notices that their federal marketplace premiums, deductibles and co-pays could increase after Sept. 30 if they don’t provide proper verification of their incomes.

But in a bit of last-minute leniency, the 115,000 with unresolved residency issues could have their canceled coverage reinstated if they provide proper documentation to HHS after Sept. 30, said Andy Slavitt, principal deputy administrator for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

“If somebody gets this cancellation and realizes that they have information that they haven’t sent us, they would be eligible for what we call a special enrollment period, which would allow them to make sure that they maintain their coverage,” Slavitt said Monday in a telephone conference call with reporters.

“Let me affirm,” Slavitt added, “if people are willing to pay their premiums and they are eligible for coverage, they will continue to get coverage.”

Enrollees to the federally-run insurance marketplaces who don’t provide the proper income-related documents by Sept. 30 won’t be as fortunate. They face adjustments to the terms of their policies beginning in October. They also could be required to repay any overpayments of tax credits _ the federal subsidies that help pay for their coverage _ in the upcoming income tax filing season.

Slavitt said he’s “hopeful and confident” that people will continue to provide the necessary income information as the Sept. 30 deadline approaches.

In May, HHS began contacting people about more than 2 million discrepancies or errors in the personal information they provided in their insurance applications. The problems stem, in part, from an administration policy that allowed applicants to self-report information about their incomes, citizenship and household size, all of which contribute to determining their eligibility for tax credits to help pay for coverage.

Of 966,000 discrepancies in citizenship and immigration data that HHS reported at the end of May, 851,000 have either been resolved or are currently being worked on, Slavitt said. He couldn’t say, however, what percent of the discrepancies were being resolved in favor of consumers.

“There’s certainly nothing in that (851,000) number that worries me that there’s anything meaningful that won’t get resolved,” Slavitt said. “All the evidence that I’ve seen so far has shown me that if people send in their information, we’re able to pretty quickly, pretty satisfactorily, resolve their status.”

Of the 1.2 million households with income data discrepancies on May 30, nearly 900,000 have been resolved or are being worked on, Slavitt added.

He did not have information about how many people may have lost marketplace coverage because of non-payment.

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