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Feds: 31K Md. residents missing out on health tax credit

A healthcare practitioner conducts a blood pressure examination. Health care jobs were the largest growing sub-sector in Maryland in 2015, adding 10,800 jobs. (Centers for Disease Control photo)

Nationwide, about 2.5 million Americans who purchase individual insurance outside of the marketplace may qualify for tax credits. (Centers for Disease Control photo)

Millions of Americans buy their own health insurance but don’t use the marketplaces established under the Affordable Care Act — potentially depriving them of tax credits that will make their coverage cheaper.

In Maryland, 31,000 individually covered residents may be eligible for tax credits but aren’t getting them because they don’t buy their coverage through the Maryland Health Connection, the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services announced Tuesday.

Marketplace customers may be eligible for tax credits if their incomes are between 100 and 400 percent of the federal poverty level. For 2017 plans, that’s about $47,500 or less for one person, or about $97,000 or less for a family of four, according to the Maryland Health Connection

Tax credits increase in parallel to insurance premiums, so most marketplace customers won’t end up paying more if their premiums are increased, according to HHS.

Nationwide, about 2.5 million Americans who purchase individual insurance outside of the marketplace may qualify for tax credits. There’s also another 10.7 million uninsured people who qualify for marketplace coverage, about 9 million of whom may qualify for tax credits, according to HHS.

“More than 9 million Americans already receive financial assistance through the Health Insurance Marketplace to help keep coverage affordable,” HHS Secretary Sylvia M. Burwell said in a statement. Consumers who qualify for financial assistance can usually buy coverage with premiums of less than $75 per month, she said.

Federal health officials are trying to increase awareness of the tax credits after a recent survey found that only 52 percent of uninsured adults were aware of the financial help offered through the marketplaces.

The next open-enrollment period for the health marketplaces runs from Nov. 1 to Jan. 31.

This year, Maryland health officials are offering a mobile app and a revamped website with clearer directions and simpler language to encourage state residents who still lack coverage to sign up.

The app will be linked to the Maryland Health Connection website, and will be able to tell users whether they may qualify for Medicaid, the Maryland Children’s Health Program or tax credits.

Officials said they hope the app will be able to reach residents who only have internet access on their phones and not in their homes.

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