I’ve had this article in mind for well over a week now. I’ve completely chocked the open “Tabs” bar in my web browser with websites I have held onto during my research. There’s still more I ought to delve into, perhaps, but on the other hand I feel I am already suffering “paralysis by analysis”. There’s only one cure, Dave, write the damn thing already.
So What Am I Dragging My Feet On?
Simple, a nifty little literacy number out there that’s currently on many best seller lists, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA). I’m sure most of you out there have read it by now, haven’t you?
No? Well perhaps you better get busy and check into it further, it’s going to quite possibly change your life starting 1 January 2014, (only a little over 120 days from now, (as I write this) unless you learn about it now.
Even more time critical is the fact that some of you reading this article are going to need to take actual “fill up forms and write checks” type action a lot sooner … as early as 1 October 2013 .. 30 something days from now.
I Think Most Of You Have Heard About This Monster, After All
But very likely you only know it by it’s “pet” name, Obamacare. Yeah, that plan.
Now that I have kicked over the can of gas onto the smoldering bonfire, let me set a couple rules here before I actually get into the article. They will be simple:
- No “I hate Obama messages, please. Not a one. It doesn’t matter if you like the guy, hate the guy or if you thought that Ronal Reagan was still president until I jogged your memory on this, this article Is not about US politics and I, for sure, am not going to engage in debate. It is the law of the land, and it was even challenged in the US Supreme Court where 9 predominately Republican justices ruled the law was constitutional) … so “It II What It Is”. We have to learn to live with it.
- In spirit of helping everyone whose blood pressure is now creeping into the read zone, I am not going to mention that “O”-word again. Let’s call this juggernaut the “ACA” (which is, after all part of its “long form” name and besides it is much easier for me to type.
Fair Enough? Thanks for your help on this.
Let me also add a disclaimer. several, actually.
- I am not a lawyer, tax accountant, Immigration consultant or any other form of professionally certified advisor. This is my personal opinion only. Take it as such.
- Any other person, even if they ARE a professional of some ilk should be taken with a huge grain of salt on these issues, because the ACA itself is completely “silent” (as in they didn’t write any sections for that, yet) on a number of questions involving US citizens and LPR’s living overseas. Things may very well change in the future.
Who Is Affected By The ACA?
That is both simple and difficult to answer. The simplest answer is, EVERY US citizen and a huge majority of US Permanent Legal Residents (Green Card holders), world-wide. The US citizens are simpler to deal with, so that is where I am going to focus first. The LPR (Green Card) folks, as in the spouses of many of you reading this article, have a lot more exceptions and “but if’s” involved, so I am only going to briefly mention parts of the ACA which seem to directly affect LPR’s living in the USA or living with their American spouses here in the Philippines.
Any Good News in the ACA?
Yep, there is. And in addition to the well-known provisions of offering allegedly affordable health insurance to those of you who don’t have it/can’t afford it now, there are two big provisions that will wipe this off the radar for many of you who have been reading along, waiting for me to drop the shoe.
Those Of You Who Already Have Insurance Are Not really Affected:
At least for now, anyway. Types of insurance coverage which are clearly acceptable are:
- Existing commercial US policies: whether paid for by you personally, or by your employer/former employer.
- Medicare: Which means the majority (but certainly not all) US citizens over age 65, and some (but again, not all LPR/Green Card holder over age 65.
- TRICARE: The medical insurance coverage extend to most active duty US military retirees. (there is TRICARE for some Reservists also), see: US Military TRICARE
- VA Medical Care: It wasn’t until I was reading this that I discovered how extensive US veterans (not only retirees, and not only disabled vets) are provided. See: VA Medical Benefits
- US Citizens Who reside Overseas: Yep, there’s a very convenient loophole for those of us reading here who live full-time in the Philippines.
So I Can Escape the Whole ACA Mess by Living Overseas?
Yes, you can. The ACA specifically exempts US citizens (and LPR’s) who reside outside the USA. So really, I could close the article right here and call this whole ACA issue yet another reason in favor of living in the Philippines … especially for a segment of my audience here who I have been talking to a lot. That is, US military retirees who don’t stay in the US upon retirement, but move to the Philippines so they can actually live on their retirement pay … and who are far short of the age 65 “gate” for Medicare and many of the other “escape clauses”.
But most of you are old enough to understand the old saying, the bold print giveth and the fine print taketh away.
You can’t just “say” you’re Living in the Philippines
The ACA defaults to the rules of the IRS in determining foreign residency of US citizens. These rules are already complex and there are some prohibitions and provisions that will make life a little difficult for many readers here. You can find out the “real rules” for determining overseas residence here. But it’s not always simple.
To try to make a complex issue easier, let me summarize by saying it mostly all depends on actually being outside the USA. And, in particular, not being inside the USA for 30 days or more within your “tax year” (1 Jan through 31 December for most tax payers.
In general, if you don’t meet this test, you are not a non-resident, even if you own property in the Philippines, have a permanent visa for the Philippines, have dual US/Philippine citizenship, etc.
Since I know that there are many of you out there who already divide your time between the Philippines and the USA, and who certainly spend more than 30 days, total, in the USA per year, you’re Philippine “connection” doesn’t count for anything with the ACA. Buy insurance or start paying a fine if you don’t have insurance determined as adequate by the ACA by 1 January 2014.
That’s why I put some emphasis on time urgency here. From what I hear, especially from the overseas American community, a lot of folks are still in ostrich mode. Waiting for some sort of formal notice from “Uncle Sam”? Hoping the whole ACA mess goes away? Waiting for a different president to be elected?
Well none of that is happening before 1 January 2014, so you have a little over 90 days to do some serious thinking … because on 1 January 2014, the US government is going to make up your mind for you.
I May Have To Buy Insurance Then, What Can I do?
Just to make a bad situation worse, the ACA leaves the actual sale and certification of the insurance up to the individual states. That means there are 51 different places to visit to learn about what’s available. As you can see, the various states are not exactly leaping ahead with their plans. Hope yours is more forthcoming than some.
Some of you may not have a “State of Residence”. It is not required anywhere that a US citizen _be_ a resident of any state. Also, if you do claim a state of residence, that state my be way behind the “power curve” in getting their state ACA program going.
The US Government, specifically Health and Human services, is required to et up a clearing house and default plan. I can’t find out a lot, yet. about their program, but this is the best Federal ACA Compliance information I have found so far.
Wish I Had Some More Definitive Answers
But I don’t. Sorry. We’re all in the same leaky boat here, and the water is really going to start pouring in come 1 October, so forewarned is forearmed as “they” say (Whomever that “they” was, s/he was pretty smart, eh?)