Get ready for a tax season nightmare, Obamacare ‘beneficiaries’

For all the headaches that the Affordable Care Act is causing millions of Americans, you would think that Congressional Republicans would be more interested in advancing a proposal or two aimed at positioning theirs as the party in favor of repealing the onerous law.

From forcing chain restaurants to overhaul their menus in order to post calorie counts to releasing private data entered into the health care reform website’s online portal to private companies, Americans across the United States are still dealing with Obamacare nightmares. It is a wonder, then, that the states are taking the lead on reforming this burdensome law.

“In Washington, D.C., there’s been little consensus on modifying the health care law,” NPR reported on Wednesday. “But in state capitals around the country, from Albany and Columbia to Austin and Sacramento, lawmakers have been mulling over hundreds of proposals that reflect many starkly different views on Obamacare as settled law.”

• More than 200 bills, most sponsored by Republicans, have attacked Obamacare’s foundation from different flanks. At least 25 bills seek to repeal or “nullify” it, while others would offset any fines collected from people who refuse to purchase health insurance, or otherwise limit the law’s reach. A “model” bill considered in at least 11 states would forbid state employees from enforcing any part of the law. Most didn’t pass.

• At least 85 bills would tinker with insurance exchanges set up by the states or the federal government to sell policies. Just over half would choke off funding or inhibit exchanges by cutting off their spending on marketing or advertising. Four bills would stop insurers from taking any federal subsidies, though none passed. Most of these bills have failed.

• More than 55 bills filed in about two dozen states tried to tighten oversight of “navigators,” who assist people in choosing a health plan that best fits their needs. Obamacare supporters see these bills as little more than a ruse to disrupt the law, and most did not pass. Yet six states in 2014 passed laws to tighten training standards or bar felons from getting these jobs.

• At least 26 states have taken up bills that would petition Congress to let states make health care financing decisions. Nine states have joined these health care compacts, data show. Nine compact bills were put forward in six states during 2013 and 2014, but only Kansas approved one, in 2014.

For congressional Republicans, a variety of other issues ranging from immigration and tax code reform to abortion laws have been their priority. With tax season fast approaching, that could soon change. Americans who count themselves among the millions of Obamacare “beneficiaries” are soon going to be refocusing the GOP’s attention on the troublesome health care reform law.

According to CNN Money, most Americans who receive health insurance through their work will have no problem with their 2014 tax filings. They will simply report that they have been covered with health insurance all year. For the 25 to 30 million who are not covered or who purchased insurance through the federal or state-level exchanges, they will be walking through an IRS minefield.

To get ready, Smith and her team have been training for months, running through a range of hypothetical scenarios. One features “Ray” and “Vicky,” a fictional couple from an H&R Block flyer. Together they earn $65,000 a year, and neither has health insurance.

“The biggest misconception I hear people say is, ‘Oh the penalty’s only $95, that’s easy,'” says Smith, but the Rays and Vickys of the world are in for a surprise that will hit their refund. “In this situation, it’s almost $450.”

That’s because the penalty for being uninsured in 2014 is $95 or 1 percent of income, whichever is greater. Next year, it’s 2 percent. The smartest move for people to avoid those penalties is to sign up for insurance before Feb. 15, the end of the health law’s open enrollment period, Smith says.

But a lot of people may not think about this until they file their taxes in April. For them, it will be too late to sign up for health insurance and too late to do anything about next year’s penalty too, says Mark Steber, chief tax officer for Jackson Hewitt Tax Services.

An unexpected $300 burden may not seem like much, but for many it is the lion’s share of their refund. Some tax preparers are convinced that millions of Americans remain unaware of the penalty (or tax, depending on your interpretation) associated with not purchasing health insurance.

Once again, it looks like the Affordable Care Act is set to dominate the news cycle as Americans come to terms with the law’s requirements. Hopefully, that helps focus Republicans on one of the primary issues which helped them to reclaim their majorities in the House and Senate.

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