Health coverage could require bank account, debit or credit cards
Americans shopping for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act next year might hit an unexpected obstacle: If they don't have a bank account, they might not be able to receive aid.
Millions of Americans are expected to be eligible for tax subsidies under the health care overhaul that they can use to purchase coverage on new marketplaces. One-quarter of those people are effectively “unbanked” and without a checking account, according to a new report from tax firm Jackson Hewitt.
With few regulations about what types of payment health insurers must accept — whether they will require direct debit from a bank account or also allow credit cards — someone without a bank account may run into trouble paying the monthly premiums.
“The reason this is such an issue is that insurers are increasingly saying that they will not accept debit or credit cards as an acceptable form of payment,” study author Brian Haile said. “If insurers refuse to accept premium payments made by debit cards, you're going to exclude many uninsured Americans.”
The Jackson Hewitt report, first reported by Kaiser Health News, focused on uninsured Americans between 100 and 400 percent of the poverty line, who are eligible to receive tax subsidies under the Affordable Care Act.
It found that, in this demographic, the ranks of the unbanked tend to be highest among states that also have high uninsured rates. In Florida, where 24 percent of the non-elderly lack insurance coverage, Jackson Hewitt estimates that 34 percent of those likely to be eligible for premium subsidies do not have a regular bank account.
The unbanked rate tends to be higher among minority groups: 33 percent of blacks in the demographic Jackson Hewitt studied did not have a checking account, compared with 23 percent of whites. Among Hispanics, it stood at 32 percent.
The Department of Health and Human Services addressed this issue in a letter to health insurers on April 5, saying that insurance carriers must be “able to accept payment in ways that are non-discriminatory.”
Aetna, one of the country's largest health plans, accepts debit and credit card payments. It will continue to do so on the new health insurance exchanges.
“We accept credit and debit cards for Individual policies today and will have the same payment options for Individual exchange products,” spokesman Matt Wiggin wrote in an email.
Still, not all health insurers read that language as requiring them to accept every form of payment. One possible deterrent to accepting credit cards could be the administrative fee that comes along with a credit card transaction, which could slightly increase premium costs.
“I have seen the wording around non-discrimination, but if you take that to an extreme, that means people could send cash payments in the mail,” Ray Smithberger, Cigna's general manager of individual and family plans, said. “That would be a little messy.”
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Foreign government gifts to family charity present candidacy hurdle for Hillary Clinton
- FCC plays net traffic cop
- Bomb plot trial ends in Saudi’s conviction
- Regulators approve tougher rules for Internet providers
- Impasse over funding for Department of Homeland Security likely will go to wire
- Devoted California couple dies within 5 hours of each other
- French bulldog joins top 10 list in U.S.
- Loose llamas corralled on Arizona street
- Russian threat via cyber on the rise, says U.S. intelligence assessment
- Vote puts federal prosecutor Lynch closer to Attorney General’s Office
- Heavy snow cuts power, snarls travel across South