ALBANY, Ga. -- If the current timetable holds, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is anticipated to extend health coverage availability beginning early next year, in part, by offering tax credits to help low- and middle-income Americans afford private coverage.
A recent report shows that, in the Albany area, there are roughly 9,300 who could potentially benefit.
Families USA released a report last week giving detail on the premium tax credits in Georgia and who is expected to be eligible for them.
"They (the tax credits) will make the premiums more affordable," Cindy Zeldin, executive director for Georgians for a Healthy Future, said in a teleconference last week. "It is making the playing field more level.
"It is a game-changer for those who have (struggled with) the market in the past. We need to make sure people get accurate information because there are too many consumers who don't yet know that tax credits will be available."
The report shows that 802,610 people statewide will be eligible for the tax credits next year, including 9,340 people in Dougherty and Lee counties with incomes below 400 percent of the federal poverty level.
That number includes 8,200 people in the Albany area employed both full- and part-time. Just over 3,300, or 35.5 percent, of that 9,340 will be 18-34 years of age, while 22.6 percent will be under 18; 29 percent will be 35-54, and 12.9 percent will be 55 or older, the report shows.
The report also breaks the numbers down by race, showing that 51.9 percent of those eligible in Dougherty and Lee for the tax credits will be African Americans and 44 percent will be whites, while the remainder accounts for Latino and other races.
The size of the tax credits are expected to be determined on a sliding scale based on income, so those with the lowest incomes will receive the largest credits. Georgia is set to have a new health insurance marketplace, called an exchange, as a means for people to access coverage.
In Dougherty and Lee counties, 4,990, or 53.4 percent, of those eligible will be those with an income of up to 199 percent of the federal poverty level while the remaining 46.6 percent will be those with an income of 200-399 percent of the federal poverty level. Roughly 88 percent of those eligible in the two counties include people working full- or part-time, the report said.
Open enrollment for the insurance marketplace is expected to be available in October, with the benefits to kick in early next year -- provided the schedule holds.
Deborah Phillips, of Doherty, Duggan, Hart and Tiernan in Albany, said that setting up exchanges has been the focus in recent months -- and there are a lot of factors to be decided regarding how the system is to be regulated, so there is no way of telling at this point what the regional impact of the law will be.
"I think it is too early to tell," she said."...There are so many gray areas."
Just like with Medicaid Advantage, it will be required of agents working in the new marketplace to pass a test and be certified with every carrier represented in that exchange, Phillips said.
Under the Affordable Care Act, residents of Georgia who are eligible for Medicaid will not be eligible for premium tax credits. Generally, the tax credits will be available to uninsured individuals and families who have incomes between 138 to 400 percent of poverty. Workers who would have to pay more than 9.5 percent of their wages to participate in their employer's plan, and workers whose employer plan pays less than 60 percent of the cost of covered benefits, will also be eligible for tax credits to help purchase coverage in the state marketplaces.