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Susanna Birdsong's picture

Thanks to recent IRS guidance —and an extended deadline (through May 30!) to sign-up for health insurance—domestic violence survivors who are living apart from an abusive spouse can now access subsidies to help them afford the cost of health insurance.  Until now, unless a married couple was legally separated or met very narrow head of household filing status requirements, they had to file their taxes jointly in order to be eligible for subsidies to help them afford health insurance through the Obamacare Marketplaceno exceptions.  The new IRS guidance makes it clear that domestic violence survivors who filed their taxes separately to avoid interactions with a violent spouse can still access these valuable health care subsidies.

Here’s an example:

Allison left her abusive husband in late October of 2013, moving herself and her daughters out of their home to a town a few miles away.  She was getting back on her feet, and didn’t have the resources to secure a divorce or a legal separation right away.  There were many things that took priority in those first few months—from finding a place to live to getting her kids settled in a new school—and also securing health insurance that she could afford.  She works as a copy writer and doesn’t have access to employer-based health insurance, so she turned to the health insurance Marketplace (thanks Obamacare!) to find an insurance plan that met her family’s needs.

Because Allison’s income is just under $40,000 a year, she should qualify for subsidies like the Premium Tax Credit to help with the cost of health insurance every year.   The new IRS guidance ensures that she can access the subsidies, even though she filed her taxes separately this year.

Allison now has six more weeks to sign up for a health insurance plan—and receive a sizeable subsidy to help her pay for it.  If she buys a benchmark plan through the Marketplace, she’ll pay no more than $200/month to insure herself and her daughters—without the Premium Tax Credit, her payment would have been more than twice that amount.      

Although there’s still work to be done to help women dealing with other complicated situations have the same access to health insurance subsidies, this recent development is worth celebrating.  For Allison and so many others like her, affordable health insurance is finally available!

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