About Bruce

  • Bruce Barcott, a 2009 Guggenheim Fellow in nonfiction, is the author of The Last Flight of the Scarlet Macaw, named one of the best books of 2008 by Library Journal. His previous book, The Measure of a Mountain: Beauty and Terror on Mount Rainier, was a recipient of the Washington State Governor's Award and was recently re-issued in a 10th anniversary edition. Barcott is an environmental journalist whose articles on humans and wildlife appear in Rolling Stone, On Earth, Outside Magazine, National Geographic, The New York Times Magazine, and other publications. He often reviews nonfiction for the New York Times Book Review. He is currently at work on a book about marijuana legalization in America.

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« Glenn Greenwald and the ACLU Dinner, One Year Later | Main | A Tale of Two Drug Wars: Denver, Day One »

November 19, 2013


Keoki McCarthy

If you figure it out let me know. I am in the exact same boat. I am self employed living in Seattle and I watched my low monthly high deductible go away. I too am trying to figure out what the best way to switch plans is. Until the end of the year I'm splurging on Dr. visits because I met my 6k deductible. I need to start the new plan in January when my plan reverts and hope that it gets figured out or at least easier by mid next month. Thanks for writing this article. Just knowing others are fighting the same fight is empowering.

Jeff Thomas

For starters, I'm a fellow freelancer in the Seattle area and I've also spent hours trying to figure out the income problem. I'm also a retired accountant, so I have to take exception with your statement that what counts is adjusted gross income.

Per your quote, the correct number is "modified adjusted gross income." That one word "modified" in front of "Adjusted Gross Income" makes a huge difference for some people. This is the rest of the statement on the IRS website: "Modified adjusted gross income is the adjusted gross income on your federal income tax return plus any excluded foreign income, nontaxable Social Security benefits (including tier 1 railroad retirement benefits), and tax-exempt interest received or accrued during the taxable year. It does not include Supplemental Security Income (SSI)." For people collecting social security or retirement income from tax free bonds, that income must be included in the calculation for the subsidy.

That will alter the equation for many of us.

R Wisher

I used your problem to highlight what a number of folks are facing. My friend, a very, very bright man, has a possible solution.

The issue is access, the problem is how to answer a question that can't be answered.

The solution is not to ask it. Instead, use the prior year's tax returns- already on file at the IRS to set the subsidy. Allow for changes with a short form (if you lost your job etc, and that would be verified or disallowed the following tax cycle.)

The only link would be between who sets the subsidies and the IRS (which can be consolidated- seriously its a chart!)

Use the IRS to simply cut a check to the consumer in the form of a tax credit. Let the consumer send the money to the insurance company.

The insurance company creates what amounts to a 1099 and sends it to the IRS and to the consumer. One more short form added to the 1040 stating how much was spent, attach the 1099 and boom you are done.

Any enforcement issues are a one year past situation, like ALL OTHER IRS issues!

Of course that doesn't solve all the other problems but it does get the money into the consumer's hand.

My friend,MENSA bright, who saw the crash coming before it did back in 2005, identified the mortgage fraud spree two years before it was exposed (we were both veteran detectives in Florida) says no one is talking about such a simple solution.

Figured I would pass it along to someone who might have a voice.

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