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Tax credits will help 121,000 in Western New York buy insurance

Nearly 64,000 Erie County residents will be eligible for premium tax credits to help them pay for health coverage under the Affordable Care Act, according to a report released by Families USA.

The report from the advocacy group breaks down county by county in the nation how many families in different income brackets will receive financial support for buying health insurance.

Under the health care reform law, premium tax credits take effect next January after an enrollment process that begins this October. The tax credits to help pay premiums will be based on income, with the lowest incomes receiving the largest tax credits.

Individuals can use the tax credits to buy insurance on health exchanges, marketplaces with websites being established by states, similar to Travelocity, in which consumers can compare and purchase health plans as they do plane tickets.

The report estimated that more than 57,000 additional people in Western New York also would receive a tax credit of varying amounts, depending on income: 18,120 in Niagara County, 11,800 in Chautauqua County, 11,680 in Allegany and Cattaraugus counties, 7,710 in Wyoming and Livingston counties, and 8,080 in Genesee and Orleans counties.

“This is a historic opportunity to expand health care coverage for a huge number of people who were cut out because they couldn't afford it,” said Ron Pollack, executive director of Families USA.

The organization reported that, generally, tax credits will be available to uninsured individuals and families who have incomes between 138 and 400 percent of the poverty level. That works out to between $15,860 and $45,960 for an individual and between $32,500 and $94,200 for a family of four in 2013.

Overall, about 1.5 million New Yorkers will be eligible for premium tax credits, which individuals will be able to apply directly to the cost of a health insurance plan when they buy it. The report also found that in Erie County, about 74 percent of the eligible residents will be white, 14 percent will be African-American, and 7 percent will be Hispanic.

The report also found that a majority of the people who will be eligible for tax credits will be in working families.

“For many people, [tax credits] will be the difference between being able to afford health insurance and not being able to afford it,” said Rep. Joseph Crowley, D-NY, who joined Pollack in a conference call.