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Health Care Reform:

Health Insurance & Affordable Care Act

Hospitals Seek To Help With Obamacare Premiums

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In the Wisconsin program, for example, eligible residents must live in Dane County, earn between 100 percent and 150 percent of the federal poverty level – about $11,490 to $17,235 for an individual— and enroll in a subsidized silver plan.

The program, called HealthConnect, pays the difference between the subsidy and the cost of the plan for the entire year, which could be as little as $20 to $50 a month for individuals, although it runs higher for families. Money for the program comes from the University of Wisconsin-Madison health system.

In South Florida, meanwhile, “we’re not talking about making premium payments for those who enrolled, then fell behind, but only [for] first-time buyers,” said Linda Quick of hospital group, which has not yet finalized its plans.  

The association plans to enlist several local United Way chapters to help find and enroll eligible residents.

Still, Quick acknowledges that getting the program off the ground may be difficult because of the cost to hospitals.

“I have a couple of systems where we’re talking about half a million dollars” in contributions, she said.

And the enrollees who are helped may never need hospital care, in which case those facilities would see no return on their investment.

Regulators Send Mixed Messages

To date, the administration has said insurers must accept payments toward premiums and other costs from government programs such as the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program, which helps provide medical services and defrays costs for people living with HIV/AIDS.

But it has been less clear about the role hospitals and other health care providers might play.

Last October, a letter from the administration to Rep. Jim McDermott, D-Wash., indicated that hospitals and drugmakers could help subsidized policyholders pay their premiums.

But that was quickly followed by a Nov. 4 online FAQ discouraging such “third party payments” by hospitals and others because they could “skew the risk pool.”

After protests by patient groups, another advisory said insurers could also accept premium payments from not-for-profit foundations which set financial eligibility criteria and do not consider enrollees’ health status.

Wed, Aug 13 2014

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