Time is running out for thousands of uninsured Connecticut residents who must decide whether to comply with a federal mandate to buy health insurance starting Jan. 1, 2014 or pay a penalty instead. “We are undertaking a paradigm shift in how we think about health insurance,” said Dan M. Smolnik, a tax attorney from Brookfield. “We don’t know for sure how people in Connecticut will respond. But I think the majority will weigh the risks of not having health insurance and make a rational decision that isn’t purely based on economics.
Connecticut was among 29 states nationwide to earn an “F” from health advocates for lacking consumer-friendly laws that help residents compare actual prices for health care procedures and services. “There is no public resource in Connecticut that makes (comparison) pricing information available to consumers. That means there’s no consumer protection against egregious pricing behaviors by providers,” said Francois de Brantes, executive director of the Health Care Incentive Improvement Institute in Newtown, which partnered with Catalyst for Payment Reform to publish the “Report Card on State Price Transparency Laws.”
The Report Card’s scores reflected a state’s overall legislative effort toward health care price transparency, with states that post price information on a public website receiving more points than those that release a report or provide data to consumers only upon request. The organizations that developed the report card are nonprofits that support payment reforms to increase the quality and value of health care. Ellen Andrews, executive director of the Connecticut Health Policy Project, said, “The score is totally warranted.
For consumers, the new year brings changes in the Affordable Care Act ranging from limits on itemized deductions and flexible spending accounts to Medicare-related tax increases and standardized forms that describe benefits in plain English. In many ways, Connecticut leads the nation in implementing reform from establishing an online marketplace to purchase health insurance and expanding Medicaid coverage to low-income adults to generating millions of dollars in savings for consumers with coverage issues. Changes coming in 2013 and 2014 include:
Limits On Itemized Tax Deductions: The rules for itemizing deductions on federal income tax returns have changed. Beginning 2013, taxpayers can claim deductions for medical expenses not covered by health insurance when they reach 10 percent of adjusted gross income, up from 7.5 percent. The law waives the increase for those 65 years and older for tax years 2013 through 2016.
Local public health officials and health care providers are zeroing in on health disparities by using the “health equity index,” an online tool to measure the correlation between health and the socioeconomic factors that define a community.
The U.S. Supreme Court decision upholding the constitutionality of the nation’s health reform law bodes well for Connecticut, where the Affordable Care Act has funneled $192 million in federal funds to implement the law and impacted the lives of millions of residents as of June 2012.
After 17 years as a family practitioner, Ayaz Madraswalla, MD, recently made one of the most painful decisions of his career to remain economically viable: Mansfield Family Practice will no longer accept new Medicare patients. The decision leaves older adults in Windham County – already struggling with a severe shortage of primary care physicians – with one less place to turn to for medical care.