By Jonathan Easley - 03/27/14 12:29 PM EDT
About 3.5 million people have qualified for $10 billion in premium tax credits under ObamaCare so far, a new study found.
Still, this is only a small percentage of those who could be eligible for the tax credits. The report found that only 21 percent of Americans who meet income eligibility requirements have claimed the subsidies.
The report found that the bulk of the subsidies are going to consumers in states like California, Florida, North Carolina, Texas and New York, where exchange enrollment has outpaced other states.
If states lagging in enrollment had achieved similar enrollment successes, an additional 3.1 million people might have qualified for an additional $8.6 billion in subsidies, the report found.
“States that are lagging in enrollment are leaving billions of dollars on the table that their residents qualify for,” Larry Levitt, a co-author of the study, said in the report.
The administration is expecting a rush of consumers before the March 31 deadline, so these numbers will likely increase substantially. By mid-March, the administration said 5 million people had enrolled, an additional 800,000 from the end date of the Kaiser study.
However, the study does not account for those who selected a plan but have not yet made their first premium payment. Analysts estimate that 20 percent of all enrollees have failed to take that final critical step to obtain coverage.
Republicans have denounced the premium tax credits as too generous and susceptible to fraud. They also say the subsidies discourage small businesses from hiring because the credits for companies are reduced each time employees are added to a payroll.
Cecilia Muñoz, an assistant to the president and director of the Domestic Policy Council, defended the subsides against that criticism at The Atlantic’s Health Policy Forum on Thursday.
“Congress and the admin were making educated guesses [when the law passed] about what was going to work best,” she said. “We’ve come up with a product that’s going to work ... we just need to make sure that we continue to make improvements to this system as it takes hold.”