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Tuesday, June 27, 2017

AMA Speaks Out: GOP Healthcare Bill Violates 'No Harm' Rule

Last week, we reported on some key facts surrounding the then-not-yet-released Senate GOP healthcare bill. The bill has since been made available for public consumption (and criticism).

The Senate’s Bill
The new bill, called the Better Care Reconciliation Act of 2017 (BCRA), aims to roll back and repeal much of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), including many of the various tax provisions present in the Obamacare legislation. In addition to the bill’s original changes, Senate Republicans released an updated version this past Monday (the 26th) to include a provision meant to replace the individual mandate (instead of a fine, those whose insurance lapses will be locked out of coverage for six months) and close a loophole that could’ve hurt the health insurance market. You can find a breakdown of these changes, as well as the other key provisions of the BCRA, over at Business Insider.

To say this bill has been met with controversy is putting it lightly. Democrats and many other supporters of the ACA are staunchly set against the BCRA because of the conservative direction in which it’ll take our country’s healthcare. Additionally, a number of Republican representatives are against the bill because they don’t find it conservative enough.

What the AMA Has to Say
In a somewhat surprising twist, the American Medical Association also had something to say about the BCRA this past Monday. After researching and taking the bill into consideration, the AMA, one of the largest healthcare lobbying groups in the US, announced its opposition to the BCRA in an open letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-NY).

AMA Executive Vice President and CEO James Madara, MD had this to say about the new bill:
"Medicine has long operated under the precept of Primum non nocere, or ‘first, do no harm.’ The draft legislation violates that standard on many levels.”

The new bill affects Medicaid funding as well as downsizes subsidies individuals can apply for to purchase health insurance. The bill plans to end the ACA’s Medicaid expansion by 2024 as well as put a cap on how much the federal government spends on the program overall. About this, Madara wrote:
“It seems highly likely [that the changes] will expose low and middle income patients to higher costs and greater difficulty in affording care…[This change would] limit states’ ability to address the healthcare needs of their most vulnerable citizens. It would be a serious mistake to lock into place another arbitrary and unsustainable formula that will be extremely difficult and costly to fix.”

The BCRA also contains language that would block Medicaid reimbursements to defund Planned Parenthood for one year. On blocking funding for the women’s health provider, Madara had this to say:
“We also continue to oppose Congressionally-mandated restrictions on where lower income women (and men) may receive otherwise covered health care services - in this case the prohibition on individuals using their Medicaid coverage at clinics operated by Planned Parenthood.”

You can read the AMA’s full letter to the US Senate here, but ultimately, the message it’s meant to deliver is this:
“These provisions violate longstanding AMA policy on patients’ freedom to choose their providers and physicians’ freedom to practice in the setting of their choice.”



It might be too early to say, but given the tumultuous conditions under which the BCRA has come to light, it’s unlikely the bill will pass. Which means we still live in the land of the ACA and may remain here for longer than some Congress members (and citizens) may like. So while we’re still here, know that ACAwise is here too for you! We’ve got year-round compliance tracking to keep your ACA data in order for the next filing season and we’ve got some of the friendliest folks ever on our US-based customer support team to help you through everything!


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Monday, June 19, 2017

5 Facts We Know About the Senate GOP Healthcare Bill

Last month, the House of Representatives voted to pass a GOP healthcare bill meant to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. As is required with new legislation, the bill was then sent to the Senate to be put to a vote there. And while it’s not completely atypical, rather than vote on the House bill, Senate Republicans began drafting their own healthcare bill. What is atypical about the whole process, however, is how secretive the Senate has been regarding exactly what this new bill contains.

In an age of translucency reaching near transparency, it’s difficult for citizens to accept a bill they know nothing about, even though it’s being voted on by officials elected by those citizens. More troubling still, however, is that many of those elected officials are being left in the dark as well. Recently, Senator Rand Paul, R-Ky, told NBC News about the bill, “I think it’s being written by someone somewhere but I’m not sure of who or where...If you get a copy of it, will you send me a copy?”

All this is not exactly reassuring, especially considering how divisive a topic healthcare has been since the Affordable Care Act was signed into law in 2010, as well as how big of an issue it was in the most recent presidential election (and since). Now, insurance companies and individual states find themselves in a sort of limbo regarding what the future of healthcare holds. In some states, the delay in new legislation is driving insurers to raise ACA premiums. And Iowa, where 2 of the 3 top insurers intend to stop selling ACA plans in 2018, is even seeking to rewrite current ACA laws to create financial buffers to cover customers with high medical expenses.

So, with all that in mind, just what do we know about the Senate’s healthcare bill?

It Might Not Have Any Democratic Support
But it might not need it. Senate Republicans are aiming to make their new healthcare bill be budget neutral, which means they can use a process called budget reconciliation to pass it with a simple majority vote. Then, so long as 50 of the 52 Republican senators vote in favor of the bill, it could be passed in the Senate.

About The Writers
Here’s what we know about the writers: there are 13, they’re all Republican, and they’re all men. Among these writers are two of the Senate’s most conservative lawmakers: Sens. Ted Cruz (TX) and Mike Lee (UT). Two of the five female senators currently in office - Sens. Shelley Moore Capito (WV) and Jodi Ernst (IA) - were invited to join at least one meeting but are not contributing writers. Despite this, the bill is expected to include provisions that affect women more than men.

Regarding Pre-Existing Conditions
One of the biggest issues with the AHCA was that it removed legislation enacted by the ACA that prevented insurers from denying coverage to those with pre-existing conditions. The Senate bill reportedly does not allow insurers to do this, however, it does allow states to choose whether to require insurers to cover essential health benefits, including emergency room and maternity care, hospitalization, and prescription medicines.

It May Be The Nicer Version of the AHCA
There was a lot of excitement in Washington, D.C. after the House passed the AHCA, however, President Trump wasn’t entirely sold on the bill, even going so far as to call it “mean” during a closed-door meeting with GOP lawmakers according to the Associated Press. This could come from pressure placed on the GOP by the House Freedom Caucus, which stated the AHCA would hit poor and elderly Americans the hardest. In response, Trump has reportedly asked senators to make a “more generous” version.

The Secrecy Tactic is Working But the Bill May Still Fail
While it’s frustrating Democratic lawmakers and citizens alike, keeping the bill a secret seems to be keeping activists from generating any serious resistance. According to Vox, progressive activists are struggling to build enthusiasm against a bill no one - with the exception of certain senators - has read. Despite this, making the bill “more generous,” per Trump’s request, means excluding some of the provisions conservative lawmakers are pushing for the most. This means there's a fair chance the bill may not pass at all, despite the lower simple-majority threshold.



So if this new healthcare bill doesn’t pass, well, that means we’re still stuck with the ACA. Luckily, you’ve got ACAwise here with all the info you need about healthcare legislation, new and old. And while we’re still living under ACA law, we’re here providing year-round compliance tracking and monitoring so when/if it comes time to e-file those ACA Forms again, you’ll be ready!

To learn more about ACA compliance tracking and e-filing with ACAwise, give us a call! We’ll set up a one-on-one demo just for you and get you all set up to remain compliant under the current ACA laws!

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Monday, June 12, 2017

ACA Compliance Tracking is Here!


If you’ve been with us since the beginning, you may remember ACAwise being introduced as the number one, all-inclusive online software for everything ACA. Not only would you be able to e-file your Affordable Care Act Forms 1094 and 1095 with one of the leaders in the IRS-authorized e-filing, but you’d also have a secure, reliable way to track your ACA compliance throughout the year.

Unfortunately, in the midst of the “will they/won’t they” confusion surrounding overturning the ACA earlier this year - and during ACA filing season, no less - our compliance-tracking features took a back seat to helping get your e-filing done. But now, ACA compliance with ACAwise is back, and that means year-round compliance tracking to ensure you’re offering the right health insurance coverage offers to the right employees!

You’ll need to contact our customer support team to set up compliance tracking for your account, but once you have it’s simple, smooth sailing from there. All you have to do is upload your employee information, as well as your health insurance plan(s) details, into your ACAwise account. From there, our program will automatically begin analyzing and tracking your information each day to make sure your full-time employees (and full-time equivalent employees) are receiving the coverage the ACA requires.

From your dashboard, you’ll be able to see this compliance tracking in the form of real-time reports, like Determining Eligibility & Affordability, Monitoring & Forecasting Compliance, and even Penalty Calculations. That’s right: we’ve even included a report that assesses your data to see if you’re at risk of incurring an ACA compliance or reporting penalty.

Another perk worth noting if you go with the ACA compliance tracking option is that ACAwise can use that data it’s monitored all year to complete your return for your ACA reporting each year! Instead of filling out forms or uploading new information, all you’ll have to do is approve that everything looks correct on your forms, then securely e-file them with the IRS.

Seems simple enough, right?

If you’re interested in adding compliance tracking to your ACA profile (or signing up for an ACAwise account!), just give us a call! We’ll talk you through all the details and get you set up with the best online ACA compliance tracking tool in the biz!


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Monday, June 5, 2017

What Do 'We the People' Think of the ACA?


It’s a tumultuous time for health care in our country. At least, for health care coverage and plans, that is. The Affordable Care Act was enacted over seven years ago amidst controversy and, while the nation’s views on the subject have become less clear-cut with regard to party lines, it’s safe to say the discussion surrounding the ACA is still a divisive one.

To remedy the controversy, our newest presidential administration did introduce the American Health Care Act (AHCA) as a replacement for the ACA, but the nuances of the bill couldn’t be agreed upon and the matter was temporarily deferred to focus on other issues. So while we’re stuck in political limbo as far as our health care laws are concerned, just how do the American people view the Affordable Care Act, as it stands? Since an official replacement hasn’t been enacted, it is still the law of the land, which means we’re all still subject to its rules and regulations. But how do we feel about it?

The Kaiser Family Foundation has been running a poll over the past several years asking Americans just that: “As you may know, a health reform bill was signed into law in 2010. Given what you know about the health reform law, do you have a generally favorable or generally unfavorable opinion of it?”


As you can see, since 2010, the percentage of those in favor of the ACA and those against it, overall, are almost equal. Only when the percentage of those who aren't sure of their stance spikes to just over 20% in early 2013 do we see a significant gap between those who are for and those who are against the ACA. But what happens if we break this down further? Say, by how those who were polled identify politically?


Talk about divisive! The only ratings consistently higher than the Democrats' approval of the ACA are the Republicans' disapproval. But really, that's not all too surprising. What if we take something else into account like, say, income?




What’s interesting about this breakdown is that, with the exception of those who make $90,000 or more during the year, those polled generally went from an unfavorable opinion of the ACA to a favorable one. This could be a result of confusion over the ACA’s regulations when it was first introduced being cleared up in the time since those regulations were officially enacted. Still, one has to wonder if it has to do with the fact that the newer legislation introduced as a replacement for the ACA tends to be more beneficial to those with higher incomes.

According to the charts, when broken down by age, the only group now more unfavorable of the ACA than in favor of it are those between the ages of 50 and 64. And while half of both men and women seem to feel more favorable to the ACA, there’s a much more significant gap between women in favor than those against the act.

Keeping in mind that the results based on subgroups may have a higher sampling of error margin than plus or minus 3 percentage points, it’s also worthy to note the difference in opinions among races. Here’s that breakdown, as of May 2017:
  • -White pollers
    • -43% favorable opinion of the ACA
    • -50% unfavorable opinion of the ACA
    • -7% don’t know
  • -Black pollers
    • -73% favorable opinion of the ACA
    • -19% unfavorable opinion of the ACA
    • -8% don’t know
  • -Hispanic pollers
    • -61% favorable opinion of the ACA
    • -22% unfavorable opinion of the ACA
    • -18% don’t know


To see the breakdown of opinions yourself, you can check out the Kaiser Health Tracking Poll’s interactive chart here. And for more information on the ACA, AHCA, and everything in between, stay tuned with ACAwise!

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Tuesday, May 16, 2017

You Can Still E-file With ACAwise



While House Republicans celebrated a victory when they passed the Affordable Care Act (ACA) replacement, the American Health Care Act (AHCA), a couple of weeks ago, the bill still has an uphill battle to pass in the Senate. Which means…

Ding ding ding! That’s right: the ACA is still very much in effect.

And while the deadline to have your ACA Forms 1094 and 1095 e-filed with the IRS to report your 2016 tax year was at the end of March

Ding ding ding! Right again: you can still e-file your 2016 ACA Forms with ACAwise!

Of course, we can’t guarantee that the IRS won’t impose any late filing penalties because you are filing late. However, the faster you get your return completed and filed, the less harsh these penalties will be. One thing’s for sure: if you don’t file your 2016 return and the ACA sticks around, you could be setting yourself up to receive a very unpleasant letter from the IRS (if you haven’t already).

At ACAwise, we’ll help make it easy to complete and file your ACA return. All you need to do is send us your employer, employee, and health care offer(s) information in whatever format you’ve already got. We’ll fix up your 1094 and 1095 Forms then, once you’ve reviewed them, securely transmit them to the IRS. We’ll even send you an email once the IRS has processed your return.

So if you haven’t e-filed yet, don’t wait around any longer. Give us a call or send us an email and we’ll help get you started with an ACAwise account so you can transmit your 2016 ACA return!

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Monday, May 8, 2017

Trumpcare vs. Obamacare


Boy, Washington’s been quite a-flutter lately, hasn’t it? Just last week, the House of Representatives voted 217 to 213 to pass the GOP health care bill meant to replace the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

The GOP’s legislature has been called the American Health Care Act (AHCA) and has been called out by various media, medical, and advocacy groups for the potentially detrimental changes should it succeed in repealing the ACA. The American Medical Association even had this to say about the new law:

The bill passed by the House [today] will result in millions of Americans losing access to quality, affordable health insurance and those with pre-existing health conditions face the possibility of going back to the time when insurers could charge them premiums that made access to coverage out of the question.

The House GOP, however, maintains that the proposal would allow individuals and states more options when it comes to health insurance which should, in turn, make coverage more affordable overall.

So what are the main differences between the current legislature (the Affordable Care Act aka the ACA aka Obamacare) and the bill that still needs to pass through an increasingly reluctant Senate (the American Health Care Act aka the AHCA aka Trumpcare)? Well, sit back, because we’re here to tell ya!

Coverage
The ACA
The Affordable Care Act introduced legislation that made it illegal for insurers to charge those with preexisting conditions more for coverage; it also made it illegal for insurers to charge older consumers more than three times what they charge younger consumers. It also barred insurers from imposing annual or lifetime limits on coverage. Under the ACA, individuals were also required to enroll in health insurance coverage or pay a tax penalty.

The AHCA
Under the GOP’s new option, how coverage for those with preexisting conditions is handled would be left up to the states. Guaranteed coverage is not explicitly eliminated, but states can seek waivers from several consumer protections. States would also be allowed to scale back benefits insurers must cover; with how the law is structured, insurers could reimpose annual and lifetime limits on certain coverage. Insurers in states that allowed it would also be able to charge sick consumers more as well as charge older consumers as much as five times more than younger consumers. The AHCA does drop the tax penalty imposed for not having health insurance, but anyone who goes without insurance for more than two months would incur a 30% premium surcharge when they tried to purchase a new plan.

Number of Uninsured
The ACA
Thanks in part to the tax penalty imposed by the ACA - and also in part to the tax subsidies it offered - the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) recently announced an unprecedented 20 million people became newly insured as a result of the ACA. Currently, the estimated amount of uninsured people in America is approximately 28 million.

The AHCA
While the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) is still completing its independent analysis of the AHCA, it’s unclear how the revised bill would change the original estimate of growth in uninsured citizens with the new legislation. The CBO initially predicted, based on the original version of the GOP health care plan, about 24 million more Americans would lose coverage by 2026, mostly affecting low-income Americans and those nearing retirement. Of course, we’re still waiting on the nonpartisan CBO’s latest analysis to determine if this has changed any with the newest updates.

Insurance Subsidies
The ACA
Under the ACA, insurance subsidies worked a little like this:
  • -Those using the healthcare marketplace who make less than $48,000 a year receive subsidies to help buy insurance.
  • -The amount of that subsidy is directly related to the person’s income and the cost of insurance where they live.
  • -The subsidy is automatically applied to the consumer’s monthly insurance bill rather than having the consumer wait for a rebate.
The AHCA
Under the AHCA, insurance subsidies will work a little like this:
  • -People are still eligible for subsidies, however, they will phase out at incomes of $75,000/year.
  • -The amount of the subsidy is directly related to the person’s age but will not vary based on the cost of coverage in the area. The newest tax credit proposal is as follows:
    • -Age 20-29: $2,000
    • -Age 30-39: $2,500
    • -Age 40-49: $3,000
    • -Age 50-59: $3,500
    • -Age 60+: $4,000
In General
As far as subsidies go, it will all depend on your income, age, and location as to whether the ACA or AHCA is a better deal for you. As the Kaiser Family Foundation study pointed out, for instance, an older, lower-income American living in an area with higher premiums (like Alaska or Arizona) will likely lose out if the ACA is replaced. However, a younger, higher-income American in an area with lower premiums (like Massachusetts or Washington) may receive assistance under the AHCA.

Medicaid
The ACA
One of the components of the ACA helped to expand Medicaid to cover more Americans. Under the ACA, the federal government allots money to states depending on how much medical care the state’s Medicaid patients receive. This ended up with the federal government covering almost the entire cost of expanding Medicaid coverage to low-income adults without children in the 30 states and D.C. that elected to expand their programs.

The AHCA
The AHCA proposes a fixed “per capita cap” or “block grant” to replace the current Medicaid system, which is decades old. Under this new system, each state would receive a fixed amount of money each year that increases annually by a percentage linked to the inflation rate. Any additional federal funding that was allotted for coverage Medicaid expansion would be eliminated by 2020.

Tax Changes
The ACA
Through the ACA, taxes were set up to pay for subsidizing insurance to ensure more covered individuals. With these tax requirements, insurance companies and medical device makers, as well as taxpayers with incomes over $250,000, were taxed more to cover the subsidies provided under Obamacare.

The AHCA
The AHCA eliminates most of these taxes, arguably making this proposal much more beneficial for medical device makers, insurance companies, and wealthy Americans. While these tax cuts total about $600 billion over the next decade, the GOP proposal does not include any new tax to offset this loss of revenue.




As the Senate debates and prepares for the vote on the GOP’s new health care proposal, we’ll be here making sure you have all the information (and e-filing product) you need to be prepared for any upcoming ACA or AHCA reporting! So be sure to stay tuned with ACAwise for the health care reporting information you need when you need it!
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Monday, May 1, 2017

Tax-Exempt Organizations Have an IRS Deadline Soon


Nonprofits have a very special place in our society. They help fill in the moral and ethical spaces society can create to make the world a better place for all. That’s why when an idea is brought to the nonprofit sector and grows into a tax-exempt charity, foundation, etc., the IRS has measures in place to cover their taxes while they contribute time, supplies, and manpower to the world’s woes.

Of course, not every nonprofit qualifies for tax-exempt status, which is why tax-exempt organizations must report information to the IRS each year. The information reported is an in-depth look at the nonprofit’s finances to ensure the right amount of money coming into the organization is allocated for its operational purpose(s). If too much is going to for-profit endeavors, board member salaries, or anything else that it impedes the charitable purpose, the IRS will perform an audit to determine if tax-exempt status is still applicable to the organization.

Tax-exempt organizations report all this information on one of the 990 Series Forms. The traditional long form, also known as Form 990, is typically filed by organizations with at least $200,000 in gross receipts and/or total assets of at least $500,000 in value. This is the most in-depth tax-exempt information return but is not the most widely-used.

The vast majority of tax-exempt organizations fall into either the Form 990-EZ (gross receipts less than $200,000 but more than $50,000) or the Form 990-N (gross receipts less than $50,000) category. Form 990-N is an online-only form also known as the e-Postcard, and Form 990-EZ can either be paper filed or filed electronically. Regardless of gross receipts, if a tax-exempt organization qualifies as a private foundation, it must file Form 990-PF to report financial data.

No matter what 990 Form an organization files, it must file it with the IRS by the 15th day of the fifth month after its tax year ends. Since most organizations operate on a calendar year tax year, which runs from January 1 to December 31, the unofficial “Official Tax-Exempt IRS Deadline” is May 15. And you may have noticed that due date is coming up! But don’t worry too much if you’re not ready: for all 990 Forms except the 990-N, extension Form 8868 can be filed to extend the tax-exempt deadline (whatever your deadline) for six months.

We’re bringing all of this up over here at ACAwise because we know that nonprofits and tax-exempt organizations aren’t run by elves or oompa loompas. They’re run by every-day people, volunteers who are ambitious enough to take on a little world-wide home improvement when they’re not at work.

So if you are (or someone you know is) active in a tax-exempt organization, here’s help out a little further: see if they have a plan for filing a 990 Form this year. If not (or even if they do), check out ExpressTaxExempt! They’re one of our sister products and have everything you need to complete Form 990, 990-EZ, 990-N, 990-PF, or even Form 8868 quickly and easily!

If you have any questions, check out their site or give us a call and we’ll connect you with an ExpressTaxExempt team member who’ll be happy to help! You can also contact them directly by phone (704-839-2321) and live chat Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. EST, or by email 24/7 at support@ExpressTaxExempt.com!


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