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Blues Offer ACA Subsidy Eligibility Via Text Messaging, First In Michigan

DETROIT (WWJ) -- Michigan residents who are exploring their health insurance options under the Affordable Care Act now can send a text message to determine their eligibility for subsidies to help them pay part of their premiums, thanks to a new program launched Monday by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan.

"Uninsured individuals earning up to $45,960 a year and families of four with household income up to $94,200 may qualify for subsidies to offset their health insurance premiums," said Terry Burke, vice president for individual business at the Blues. "Determining your subsidy eligibility and amount is a first step in choosing health coverage under the ACA, and Blue Cross is pleased to offer this service to help people know what subsidy they may be eligible to receive."

Beginning in 2014, under the ACA, all Americans are required to have health coverage or pay a tax penalty. The ACA sets out subsidies to help lower- and middle-income people pay their premiums. In an effort to guide and educate consumers as to whether they are eligible for financial assistance, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan has launched "Text for Subsidy," a program to allow consumers to receive subsidy estimates via text message.

Individuals and families not eligible for subsidies can enroll in a qualified health plan by calling a Blue Cross health plan advisor at (855) 892-8089. People also can enroll through licensed health insurance agents. People eligible for subsidies must enroll through -- either online, over the phone or by submitting a paper application, and Blue Cross health plan advisors can help consumers through this process.

Under Blue Cross' "Text for Subsidy" program, people can text "4Subsidy" to 222-752 to initiate a back and forth exchange, detailing their eligibility. The consumer will be asked to provide their zip code, age, income and number of dependents. Blue Cross will respond with whether or not they are eligible for a subsidy.

Individuals and families with incomes at or below 133 percent of federal poverty level will be alerted of possible eligibility for Medicaid. BCBSM also offers an online subsidy estimator.

The premium tax subsidy is based on an individual's 2012 reported income and family size to the IRS. Once the subsidy has been established, individuals can apply the credit in several ways:
* Apply none of it to the monthly premiums, and receive the lump sum as a tax credit at the end of the year.
* Apply all of it to the monthly premiums to lower the amount paid each month.
* Apply some of it to the monthly premiums to lower the premium, and get the rest as a tax credit. This option helps to avoid owing the government if your income increases during the year.

Income guidelines for subsidy range from $45,960 for an individual to $94,200 for a family of four to $158,520 for a family of eight. Incomes eligible for reduced silver-plan cost sharing range from $28,725 for an individual to $58,875 for a family of four to $99,075 for a family of eight.

The Blues say they are the only health insurance company to offer ACA-compliant health plans in all 83 Michigan counties. More at

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