Connecticut consumers who buy insurance on the new exchange will pay some of the highest premiums in the nation, according to a report by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services released Wednesday. While the report lauds lower-than-expected prices nationwide, it shows that the premium for a benchmark insurance plan, dubbed a “second lowest cost silver plan,” would cost an average of $436 a month in Connecticut – 33 percent higher than the national average, and fourth-highest in the country after Alaska, Mississippi and Wyoming. State exchanges, including Connecticut’s Access Health CT, will offer “bronze,” “silver“ and “gold” policies that vary in coverage, deductibles and co-pays. Consumers can begin to enroll for insurance on Oct. 1, with coverage beginning Jan.
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.
It’s time like these when I miss Jennifer Jaff the most. Jennifer was the executive director of the Farmington-based Advocacy for Patients with Chronic Illness, Inc., and a member of an advisory committee that is helping build the state’s health insurance exchange, the online marketplace for people buying insurance as mandated by the Affordable Care Act. When Jennifer died in September – she’d been living with a variety of ailments, including Crohn’s disease — she left a huge hole in the state’s safety net. Her board is holding a memorial service for her on Dec. 9 at Hartford’s Old State House, and if just a small portion of the people she helped show up, the building won’t be big enough. We need her now, during the state’s organization of its exchange.