The Affordable Care Act & Taxes: What Every Physician Should Know

The topic of taxes doesn’t always come up in the examining room with patients—but this year, it might. Last year was the first year the Affordable Care Act’s “individual mandate” required Americans to secure health insurance, which means that this year’s tax season’s could be just a little more complicated for your taxpaying patients.

According to Tony Pugh of the Chicago Tribune, senior officials at the Treasury and Health and Human Services departments said that 2-4 percent of an estimated 150 million taxpayers are likely to be penalized for failing to secure health insurance. In his article, Push says the penalty will equal 1 percent of the taxpayer’s annual household income, or $95 per adult and $47.50 per child (or whichever’s higher).

But it’s not too late for taxpayers to get on board and avoid the penalty. You may want to tell your uninsured patients that if they missed the boat, they still have until February 15th to enrol.

On the other side of the coin, the millions of Americans who received overly generous subsidies under the law may be reaping smaller-than-expected refunds—or may actually owe the IRS—come tax-return time, according to a recent Wall Street Journal article by Stephanie Armour and Louise Radnofsky.

So how can doctors help patients make sense of all this information, if it comes up in the family practice clinic somewhere between “Say Ahh,” and “See you next time”?

Beyond explaining the basics, you might direct them to some helpful online resources. H&R Block has a very user-friendly series of infographic-style explanations and videos that explain the Affordable Care Act, Advance Premium Tax Credit, penalties and exemptions, and how to get help enrolling in health insurance. There are plenty of excellent online articles on the topic as well.

Also, tax preparing experts throughout the country are making sure they’re well-prepared for an onslaught of questions this year, according to a recent NPR blog post on the topic. At offices coast to coast, accountants have been undergoing special training and role-playing to get ready for one of the most complicated tax seasons to date. Necessary growing pains, as Obama’s mission strives to ensure all Americans have health insurance coverage.