It’s tax time, and as happens every year, many of us are turning to local tax preparers for help.   This year, however, is different:  The Affordable Care Act (ACA) has brought new options for health care coverage to millions of previously uninsured Americans. While you can still choose not to purchase health insurance, that decision may come at a cost, beginning with the 2014 tax year. Eligible taxpayers who remain without insurance may be required to pay penalties.  There are exceptions to this, but recent reports indicate that many tax preparers may not know that you may be exempt from paying these penalties.  Even worse, some may know, but tell exemption-eligible clients that they do have to pay a penalty, and then are pocket the money for themselves.

During the recent enrollment periods, PrimeCare’s Outreach and Enrollment Team began observing that many immigrant families and DACA students were getting penalized erroneously or fraudulently during the income tax process. The immigrant population is specifically exempted from paying this penalty.  Yet, when we surveyed ten local tax agencies (five independent, five that are part of a large national tax preparation chain) to ascertain basic education levels about the intersection of ACA policy and immigration status, we found NONE knew this fact, and didn’t realized that there was an income tax form that could be utilized to seek this exemption. All would have erroneously misled a consumer into thinking they owed a penalty.

To address this, PrimeCare has launched a new initiative: Our Outreach and Enrollment Specialists are combing through our self-pay lists and informing enrollees about the income tax process to prevent this from happening to our patients. We also inform them about the extension so they can bring in other eligible family members. So far, 37 of our patients and 10 community members have called us seeking assistance on this matter.

We lead this work in the community in partnership with Alivio Medical Center, ICIRR, and the Puerto Rican Cultural Center.

PrimeCare has also shared examples and anecdotes with the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, the Governor’s Office, and the Federal government to help them develop State webinars and fraud reporting steps. We gave feedback on tools created for use in the immigrant community and we spoke about this issue on Univision and the local press during our last-chance enrollment weekend event held February 13-15, 2015. Along with our consortium partners, we pressed Get Covered Illinois to track cases of fraud to bring them to the attention of the Attorney General. Our team is also collecting anecdotal evidence about new forms of fraud as they get reported to us.

To find out if you are exempt from paying the ACA penalty for not enrolling in health care, go to official IRS website on exemptions and the Individual mandate for additional details.

You can learn about applying for exemptions here. In some cases, you’ll need to actually fill out a form and send it to the marketplace before you officially qualify for the exemption. Don’t leave this until the last minute.

 

Or, as always, for the best and most up-to-date information about you and the Affordable Care Act, call us at

(312) 491-5086

for assistance in English or Spanish,

or

(312) 633-5839

for assistance in English, Polish, Ukrainian or Russian,