Sure, enrollment numbers for the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act aren’t going as well as the administration had hoped. But tax season might turn things around.
So says a new report, which finds tax preparers could be a key source of assistance for the millions of uninsured consumers who remain uneducated about the health reform law.
The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation found that more than 74 percent of the uninsured who qualify for Medicaid or health insurance exchange subsidies — 18.9 million people — file federal income tax returns. And 90 percent of young adults who qualify for subsidies file tax returns. Experts have long said participation by young, healthy adults in PPACA health plans is a key to the law’s success.
“As people file their income taxes, tax preparers may be able to help enroll those who are eligible for marketplace plans,” said Kathy Hempstead, who leads coverage issues at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. “Since the majority of eligible filers use a tax preparer and file before March 31, this could be an effective route to boost enrollment.”
Tax preparers can share information on the benefits for applying for coverage and what the penalties are for not enrolling. They also can inform consumers on tax credits available through PPACA, designed to make coverage more affordable for lower-income Americans.
Tax preparation companies like H&R Block and Jackson Hewitt, for example, have been hosting seminars on PPACA tax issues, and talking to clients on what the law means for them.
“Public and private sector leaders interested in enrolling the eligible uninsured could seriously consider engaging with both the for-profit and nonprofit segments of this industry to maximize its ability to help uninsured clients obtain health coverage, certainly during the remaining months of 2014 open enrollment, and potentially thereafter as well,” the report concluded.