If we were making a list of the top ten stories that did not happen in 2014, we'd probably want to include the fact that the full implementation of the Affordable Care Act did not lead to the collapse of the Constitution and a Marxist takeover in Washington, D.C. The Affordable Care Act simply started helping a few million people pay for their health insurance while helping millions more keep insurance that, a few years ago, insurers would have eagerly taken away to protect their bottom lines.
KELO-TV reports that more than 8,800 South Dakotans have signed up so far in the second open enrollment period on HealthCare.gov, the federal health insurance exchange. That's about 1% of the state. A similar proportion of Minnesotans (59,000 as of last Friday) have signed up for insurance on MNSure, the state-run exchange.
Health and Human Services' December enrollment report shows that out of 4.38 million applicants determined to be eligible to buy insurance on the federal exchange, 3.56 million, 81%, are eligible to receive financial assistance in the form of the premium tax credit. (The percentage is about the same in South Dakota.) Most folks who carried exchange insurance this year have already received that credit—or, more accurately, their insurance companies have already received that credit. When they signed up in 2013 for coverage in 2014, exchange customers provided an estimate of their income for 2014. HealthCare.gov calculated the premium tax credit based on that estimate and, in most cases, sent that money straight to the insurance provider, allowing the customer to pay the lower premium up front. Customers could choose to pay the full premium and reclaim the premium tax credit on their 2014 tax return when they file in the next few months. But most people have already spent that credit; they'll see the number on some line of their 1040 this tax season, but they'll see it zero out, with adjustments based on any difference between the income they estimated when they bought their exchange insurance last year and what they actually earned in 2014. Tax preparers, study up!
Those millions of Americans receiving premium tax credits could get grinched by the selfish conservatives who are suing to overturn the credit for customers of the federal exchange. The Supreme Court hears King v. Burwell on March 4 and probably won't rule until the end of June. Still, if you got a premium tax credit, it wouldn't hurt to file your taxes early and make sure your refund is in your pocket before the Roberts gang has its say... just in case!