Inside and outside of Oakland

Obamacare advocates say tax credits will offset health insurance premiums

   More than 250,000 people in Oakland, Wayne and Macomb counties will qualify for federal tax credits to help them pay their health insurance premiums, Democrats and advocates for Obamacare said Thursday.
  The tax credits will go to 147,000 in Wayne County, 72,000 in Oakland County, and 59,000 in Macomb County, says a new report from health advocacy group Families USA.

  Statewide, 745,000 Michigan residents will qualify for tax credits to help them pay health premiums when Obamacare takes full effect next January, the report said.
  The tax credits are meant to subsidize lower-income people for the cost of health insurance premiums, which critics say will surely rise under Obamacare, more formally known as the Affordable Care Act.
  "The tax credit subsidies are a game-changer," Families USA Executive Director Ron Pollack said via conference call.
  Joining Pollack were U.S. Reps. John Dingell, a Dearborn Democrat, and Gary Peters, a Bloomfield Township Democrat, along with Don Hazaert from Michigan Consumers for Health Care.
  Hazaert said the key components of Obamacare are an expansion of Medicaid to cover people at 130 percent of the federal poverty level, establishment of tax credits to help pay premiums for people up to 400 percent of the federal poverty level, and establishment of health exchanges to foster competition and allow people to shop for the insurance they want.
  Obamacare also requires most people to have health insurance.
  Michigan's Republican-controlled House and Senate has yet to act on an expansion of Medicaid, despite support of the expansion by Republican Gov. Rick Snyder.
  Michigan lawmakers also opted not to approve a state-federal partnership for a health exchange, meaning the federal government will operate Michigan's by default.
  People can start enrolling in the exchange Oct. 1.
  "No longer is the American going to have to confront the problem that health care is going to be privilege and not a right," Dingell said. "Now it's going to become what it always has been and should be — a right."
  Peters said the tax credits will help people afford quality health care they may not have been able to afford without the credits.
  "I represent parts of Oakland County, parts of Wayne County, and I'm particularly pleased when I look at these numbers of over 70,000 in Oakland County and nearly 150,000 in Wayne County, folks who are working hard and playing by the rules who simply cannot afford to provide the health insurance that is so important to the stability of their families," Peters said.
  "Now, in January of next year, they will be able to do that," Peters said.
Critics of Obamacare have argued that the Affordable Care Act fails in its promises to keep health insurance affordable for people, and predict steep average hikes in health insurance premiums once Obamacare takes effect.
  The Heritage Foundation has published a chart showing how much premiums could rise once Obamacare is implemented. In Michigan, that percentage ranges from 35 percent to 65 percent on average.
  The Heritage Foundation says the source of the chart is minority party staff (Republicans) on the U.S. Senate Finance Committee, U.S. Senate Health, Education, Labor & Pensions Committee, and the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee.
  The AARP, an advocacy group for people age 50 and older, has tried to debunk inaccurate rumors on its website.
  In particular, it notes that fraudulent emails are being circulated claiming that premiums for Medicare Part B will rise to $247 a month. The standard Part B premium in 2012 was $99.90 monthly.
"There is no way of accurately predicting what the premium will be in 2014 or any future years," AARP writes on its website at

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