Stimulus package to help more people afford health insurance; benefits health entities, too

Published: Mar. 16, 2021 at 4:45 PM EDT
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NEW ORLEANS (Great Health Divide) - Healthcare is something most people need at some point in their lives, but it is not cheap. And through President Joe Biden’s American Rescue Plan more people may be able to afford coverage through the federal and state health insurance marketplaces.

Louisiana has made progress since 2016 in getting more of its resident insured through the expansion of Medicaid eligibility. The expansion is allowed through the federal Affordable Care Act.

Mollye Demosthenidy, J.D., MHA, is a health policy expert and Associate Dean for Strategic Initiatives at Tulane University’s School of Public Health.

“Medicaid expansion was extremely impactful in Louisiana and that covered those individuals who make at, or below 138 percent of the federal poverty level,” said Demosthenidy.

Medicaid expansion benefits the working poor who make too little money to pay for their own health coverage and their employers do not provide health insurance.

People of all income levels can go to the website and shop for coverage and apply for federal subsidies to help pay for the coverage but up until the American Rescue Plan, the subsidies were not for everyone.

Emily Remington is Executive Director of 504 HealthNet. The organization says it is comprised of over 25 non-profits and governmental organizations.

“The American Rescue Plan eliminates the ACA’s subsidy cliff and extends premium tax credits to those with incomes over 400 percent of the federal poverty line for 2021 and 2022. There is no upper-income limit on premium tax credits,” said Remington.

Demosthenidy thinks the new law will help more people gain coverage.

“The stimulus bill certainly makes the Affordable Care Act a lot more affordable for consumers,” she said.

She said the package achieves that in more than one way.

“It does this a couple of ways that I think are important. First, it increases the amount of premium subsidies for people that purchase insurance on either the federal or the state marketplace and really increased subsides just mean lower premiums for those folks,” Demosthenidy stated.

And it ensures premiums do not consume the majority of individuals’ and families’ income.

“So, for the next two years no one who purchases insurance via the marketplace will be expected to pay more than 8.5 percent of their income on health insurance premiums and that’s I think really going to be financially impactful for middle-class families,” said Demosthenidy.

Remington said the law will help healthcare entities.

“Seven-point-six billion have been allocated toward public health institutions and we should see some of that money trickle down to Louisiana,” said Remington. “The other $7.6 billion dollars will go to community health clinics.”

And according to the health-policy-focused Kaiser Family Foundation healthcare marketplace calculator a couple with two children, earning $75,000 a year would qualify for almost $12,000 a year as a premium tax credit through the ACA health insurance marketplace and KFF says that would cover 75 percent of the monthly health coverage costs.

In December of 2020, the Louisiana Department of Health released a survey. It showed an uninsured rate for adults of 11.1 percent.

And experts say when more people have insurance, they get preventive care and are less likely to use hospital emergency rooms as their only doctor which is more expensive.

“When that’s affordable and people can be covered, they can take those steps and seeing their providers and staying healthy,” said Demosthenidy.

Also, the American Rescue Plan also helps people with COBRA if they lose their job.

“And what the stimulus bill does is, it says that the federal government will now pick up100 percent of that premium for the COBRA policy through September,” said Demosthenidy.

Great Health Divide is an initiative addressing health disparities in the Mississippi Delta and Appalachia funded in part by the Google News Initiative.

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