In May 2013, Jackson Hewitt released a report showing nearly 8 million uninsured Americans who qualified for health insurance premium payment assistance would be unable to do so because they are unbanked, meaning they do not have a checking or savings account. Of those 8 million Americans, 123,333 would have been Arkansans and 166,768 would have been Mississippians. And because these people are unbanked, it also meant that the limited payment methods accepted by insurers for premiums would have been quite an obstacle for eligible individuals acquiring and maintaining their health insurance coverage.
But there’s good news…
On June 19th, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) published proposed rules in the Federal Register stating that qualified health plan issuers must accept a number of payment formats so individuals without a bank account will have options for paying monthly premiums. In July 2013, Southern Bancorp Community Partners joined other members of the Assets & Opportunity Network, supported by the Corporation for Enterprise Development (CFED), in signing a comment letter responding to CMS’s proposed rules. Southern Bancorp Community Partners serves as the Lead State Organization for Arkansas.
In response to the proposed rules and heightened advocacy for low-income consumers, the Obama administration last week stated it will require issuers to allow various forms of payment in the health insurance exchanges. The final rule mandates insurance companies accept the following as payments in the individual market: paper checks, cashier’s checks, money orders, pre-paid debit cards, electronic funds transfer from a bank account, and an automatic deduction from a credit or debit card. Providing these options will allow unbanked individuals to acquire health insurance coverage and not prevent them from accessing coverage solely due to the inability to make their payment.
Southern Bancorp Community Partners applauds these changes as another step toward strengthening family economic security. To learn more about unbanked Arkansans and Mississippians who can now make health insurance payments through the exchanges, please read our previous blog post here or contact Tamika Edwards at email@example.com.
 Varney, S. (2013). “HHS will allow ‘unbanked’ people to use prepaid debit cards on exchanges.” Kaiser Health News.