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Obamacare for expats a felony?

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Toni Townes-Whitley, Michell Obama's school pal & top official at CGI - winner of billion dollar no bid Obamacare website contract. Townes-Whitley was a stay-at-home mom for six years, and with Peace Corps in Gabon

Toni Townes-Whitley, Michelle Obama’s school pal & top official at CGI – winner of billion dollar no bid Obamacare website contract. Townes-Whitley with the Peace Corps in Africa, and then a stay-at-home mom for six years before CGI

Jim and I piled into our truck to go to El Centro to find out about Obamacare. Our first destination was the California Department of Social Services in El Centro.

As we sped off, Jim said, “The only way to do this is see who in carnation you’re talkin’ too. Ain’t gonna speak to anyone over the phone?”

“Why not?” I said, “Isn’t it more convenient?”

Jim gave me a look and said, “Yeah, them there Obamacare navigators who take down your data include a pack of felons. Give them our socials and pretty soon there will be a bunch of fake MaryAnn and Jim Dogooders, walkin’ around, usin’ our credit cards.”

“Right,” I answered—Jim is always right…pretty much so.

After a brief wait we met up with a nice lady. She owned up that they haven’t received much Obamacare information, and told us to wait in the lobby.

After another wait, we were called to a window. The guy was real nice and said he had set up an “expedited” appointment for us in the next building just north.

The next building had a waiting room that by Jim’s estimate was “about 50,000 square feet.” Along with us, there was just one other person waiting. After a while, a guy came through a side door and called her in.

After only about ten minutes, the lady came out, and the guy called us in.

We told him we wanted to get set up with Obamacare.

“You mean the Affordable Care Act,” the fellow replied.

“Uh, yeah,” answered Jim.

“You folks American citizens?”

“Native born!,” said Jim.

“OK, what’s your address.”

“We have a post office box in Calexico, it’s…”

“No, I need your actual physical home address,” said the guy, checking his watch.

“Oh, sure, said Jim, we live in Mexicali at…”

“Whoa!” said the guy. “You live in Mexicali, do you know what that means.”

Leaning forward, I said, “What do you mean, what does that mean.”

The guy put down his pencil, leaned back and said, “Well, what that means is, if you sign up, and I mean even apply for the Affordable Care Act, you both are committing a felony!”

“Hey, buddy, how can that be? Do we look like felons to you?”

The guy tried to be pleasant and with a big smile said, “It’s not just you two—anybody who applies for the Affordable Care Act, Medi-Cal, or any benefits from California is committing a felony if they don’t actually reside in California.” Putting up his hand to keep Jim from speaking, the guy continued, “and to apply at this office you must reside not just in California, but in Imperial County, which is our jurisdiction.”

“So what do we do?” I asked since I could see Jim was too hot to talk.

“Easy, just pay the penalty.”

“Hang on, there; is that a felony too?” asked Jim.

“No,” came the answer.

In no time we were back in the truck. As we revved out of the parking lot, Jim said, “We’re gonna go to the El Centro Social Security office, and just check this out!”

We arrived at Social Security at around two-thirty. The office is packed up until that time, but empty as closing time nears.

In no time, we were at Window 8 talking to a young man. We explained our situation and he disappeared. In five minutes, he was back, and said, “We need one of our experts to talk to you, so if you just take a seat, you name will be called.”

After a very short wait, the loudspeaker said, “James and MaryAnn Dogooder, please come to Window 16.”

As we approached the window, Jim said, “Shucks, the last time I was called James, was at my Baptism.”

I explained what we had been told at the California Department of Social Services.

The young man behind the window, the “expert,” listened intently and then said, “That’s right, it would be a felony.”

Jim and I looked at each other in amazement.

“But,” continued the young man, “there is an exception.”

He continued, “American expatriates fall into two categories according to IRS rules. Those who qualify for the IRS earned income exclusion of $97,500 and those who don’t.”

“Yeah?” said Jim.

“To qualify for the IRS $97,500 earned income exclusion, you must either “be in a foreign country, or countries…throughout your period of bona fide residence or physical presence, whichever applies.”

“So how do we get that?” I asked.

The window-man said, “To qualify for the IRS exclusion you either have to have a residence or work visa in a foreign country, or remain outside of the U.S. for a full 330 days in any calendar year.”

“But we don’t need no visa to live in Mexicali, it’s in the Baja California free zone,” replied Jim.

“I gave you the rule,” came the answer.

“So them there one-percenters can get Obamacare,” nodded Jim.

“No they can’t. If they have the IRS exclusion, they are exempt from the Affordable Care Act; can’t use it and have no fine for not using, it.”

Jim looked at me, and said, “Well, God bless America—I guess we just have stay out of the states for 330 days each year.”

“Oh dear,” I said.

The young man added, “And the IRS will check with the Border Patrol just how many times and exactly when you crossed the border—if you claim the IRS exclusion.

Jim stood up and said, “Well, Sir, we thank you kindly, and we sure hope you guys catch all those Obamacare and Medi-Cal felons who are living in Mexicali.

“And Baja California, too,” I added.

Update December 13, 2013:

Good news, and a correction to this post!

I finally was able to talk to a navigator at the ACA website. He told me we did not have to stay out of the USA at all – no 330 days out of the country to avoid Obamacare,.

The sole fact that our residence is outside of the USA exempts us from Obamacare, even if we do not qualify for the IRS exclusion.

Is he right? I don’t know, but we did record the conversation should we get into trouble for our not participating in Obamacare.

2 comments to Obamacare for expats a felony?

  • Rob:
    I finally was able to talk to a navigator at the ACA website. He told me we did not have to stay out of the USA at all – no 330 days out of the country,. The sole fact that our residence is outside of the USA exempts us from ACA. Is he right? I don’t know, but I did record the conversation should I get into trouble for our not participating in ACA. I will be updating our mexicamimaryann.com accordingly.
    God Bless,
    MaryAnn

  • Rob in Arizona

    Wow, what a crazy law the ACA is turning out to be. I guess the silver lining in this for you both is that you are in Mexicali and have easy access to health care at affordable rates. In September of 2012 I had a series of ultrasounds done at the Hospital Almeter on Madero, real close to the border. Price – $58.50 vs the $900 I was quoted in Phoenix without insurance. So I know it’s very affordable and accessible to have health care needs taken care of in Mexicali and ditch the US health care system altogether. I couldn’t blame you if you stayed out of the US for 330 days a year….not at all. For what it’s worth I am learning Spanish and am thinking of living south of the border myself. Rob in Arizona

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