Federal subsidies for the purchase of private insurance are a cornerstone of the Affordable Care Act. More than eight out of 10 people who selected health plans through the exchanges from October through mid-April were eligible for subsidies, including income tax credits. So far this year the federal government has paid out $4.7 billion in subsidies, and the amount is expected to total $900 billion over 10 years.
Since June 1, the government has notified hundreds of thousands of people that "the information in your application doesn't match what we found in other records." Accordingly, the notice says, "you need to follow up as soon as possible and provide more documents to make sure the marketplace has the correct information."
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"If you don't send the needed documents," it says, "you risk losing your marketplace coverage or help you may be receiving to pay for such coverage."
The government has a long list of documents that consumers can use to establish their eligibility. These include copies of birth certificates, Social Security cards, high school diplomas, driver's licenses, pay stubs and voter registration cards.
"The law requires us to double- and triple-check this data," said Julie Bataille, a spokeswoman at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, so "we're reaching out to consumers — via mail, email and phone calls — to encourage them to provide supporting documentation."
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Mara Youdelman, a lawyer at the National Health Law Program, an advocacy group for low-income people, said: "In some cases, consumers say they already sent the documents to the federal marketplace. They don't understand why they are being asked to send them in again."
Even though consumers have sent documents to Serco's office in London, Ky., the government cannot always link the documents to applications for coverage filed months earlier. In addition, some consumers report persistent problems when they try to upload documents through HealthCare.gov.
For months, Republicans have asserted that the administration was lax in verifying the income and eligibility of people who applied for insurance subsidies.
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