Biden Bill to Help Millions Avoid Higher Health Care Costs

Millions of people in the United States will be spared big increases in health care costs next year after President Joe Biden signed legislation that extends generous subsidies for those who buy plans through federal and state marketplaces.

The sweeping climate, tax and health care bill commits $70 billion over the next three years to keep premiums low for about 13 million people, just before reduced rates expire in a record-breaking year. high inflation.

As the calendar ticked toward the Nov. 1 enrollment start date, Sara Cariano grew increasingly nervous about her job helping people across Virginia sign up for subsidized, private health insurance on the HealthCare.gov website.

“I expected a very difficult conversation with people to explain why their premiums were steep,” said Cariano, a policy specialist at the Virginia Poverty Law Center.

But the passage of the “Inflation Reduction Act” erased those concerns.

“Things aren’t going to change for the worse for people who buy coverage through the marketplace,” he said.

The bill would expand subsidies that were temporarily offered last year, when Congress and Biden signed a $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief bill that significantly reduced premiums and costs for customers buying plans through the Affordable Care Marketplace Act. It also continues the reduced costs for more individuals and families living well above the poverty line.

Only Democrats supported expanded health care subsidies and other proposals in the bill Biden signed Tuesday. Republicans criticized the measure as a big government overreach that will only worsen inflation. In fact, economists say, the bill will do little to either rekindle or extinguish the flames of exorbitant prices.

Marketplace health insurance premiums are expected to rise significantly next year — about 10 percent — according to an analysis by the Kaiser Family Foundation. Expanded subsidies, which set premium payments based on income, would shield most people from those price increases, said Cynthia Cox, the foundation’s vice president.

“Generally speaking, people shouldn’t see increases in their premiums,” Cox said.

Those who bought plans in the state marketplace saved an average of about $700 in premium payments from subsidies this year, according to estimates by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

As costs fell, more people signed up for coverage last year and the number of those without health insurance dropped to a record low of 8 percent in August, the Department of Health and Human Services said. About 26 million people, 2% of whom are children, remain uninsured in the US

In California, many of the 1.7 million people who buy health insurance through Covered California, the state’s insurance marketplace, will continue to save between $29 and $324 a month, depending on their income level.

State officials predict that about 220,000 people will be saved from out-of-coverage pricing. Between 2 and 3 million people in California may also turn to the state market if they lose coverage through Medicaid when the federal government’s COVID-19 public health emergency ends. About 15 million people in the US have had their Medicaid coverage extended during the pandemic.

Cost is the biggest factor in whether a person signs up for coverage or not, said Joseph Poindexter, senior director of health insurance programs at HealthCare Access Maryland.

Some parents, for example, enroll their children in Medicaid but skip buying coverage for themselves, he said.

“It’s really said that you see people who will say, I’m going to quit treatment or I’m not going to see the doctor,” Poindexter said.

Fewer people had to make that calculation with the subsidies, Poindexter said, attributing the reduced prices to a 9 percent increase in new state enrollees last year.

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Associated Press writer Adam Beam in Sacramento, Calif., contributed to this report.

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