Health

Thousands of Pa. can’t afford health insurance if we lose ARP grants l Expert Opinion

Pennsylvania on Tuesday debuted its new online insurance marketplace, Pennie.com.

It’s no coincidence that a record 375,000 Pennsylvanians signed up for health coverage through Pennie during the 2022 open enrollment period; 111,000 of them are new to Pennie. Pennie is the state health coverage marketplace for Pennsylvania and was created by Governor Wolf and the Pennsylvania General Assembly on a unanimous, bipartisan basis in 2019.

Last March, President Biden and Congress passed the American Rescue Plan (ARP), which created critical new subsidies that dramatically reduced the cost of health coverage and expanded subsidy eligibility to nearly all purchases. coverage in the market. It was the most significant federal move to reduce costs and expand access to health care since the Affordable Care Act was passed. As a result, nine out of 10 Pennie customers receive subsidies averaging $500 per month.

We are proud of the work we do to make health coverage affordable and accessible to hundreds of thousands of Pennsylvanians. We connect individuals and families to high-quality coverage and provide a much-needed affordable option for those who don’t have health coverage through their employer or elsewhere. This includes servers in restaurants, preschool teachers, small business owners, retailers, students and many more.

Pennie’s enrollment numbers match national trends, with a record 14.5 million Americans purchasing coverage in health insurance marketplaces across the country during the 2022 open enrollment period .

The main reason for this registration record is clear. ARP grants have been instrumental in increasing the number of Pennsylvanians and Americans enrolled in quality, affordable coverage. Unfortunately, these subsidies are set to expire at the end of this year, and without congressional action, hundreds of thousands of Pennsylvanians and their families will see the cost of their coverage increase. Many will likely lose access to care because they can no longer afford their plan, while others will only be able to afford a less comprehensive plan, resulting in higher expenses.

The Pennsylvania Health Access Network team works around the clock to answer tens of thousands of calls each year from Pennsylvanians seeking answers on how to get health coverage that fits their budget. This year, the message from customers is clear: ARP’s savings are a game-changer for families. Not only are families saving money on their health coverage; they can use those savings to buy better quality coverage. This means that if a family member becomes ill or injured, they can worry less about the cost of their care and more about their recovery.

What do these savings mean for Pennsylvanians? Meet Emily Nussdorfer, mental health therapist and client of Pennie in Philadelphia. Emily is one of many Pennsylvanians to benefit from ARP cost savings. As someone with chronic conditions that require regular care from their specialists, an affordable health plan with minimal fees is of crucial importance in maintaining one’s health. She recently changed jobs and is grateful that she was able to maintain affordable coverage even though her income has fluctuated. Thanks to the new grants, she saves nearly $1,000 annually on her plan.

If the ARP subsidies disappear, a 40-year-old earning just over $19,000 a year could see their monthly premium increase by $66, or almost $800 a year. A family of four earning just over $52,000 a year could experience a monthly premium increase of nearly $200 per month. And a married couple approaching retirement with a family income of almost $78,000 could see their monthly premium increase by $1,900 per month.

Letting subsidies expire would be a mistake. The good news is that there is a way forward. Congress can make these lower bonuses permanent. The US House of Representatives has already passed a law – The Build Back Better Act – that would do just that. Lawmakers should act quickly to pass Build Back Better or stand-alone legislation to permanently lower the cost of health coverage and expand access to quality health care in Pennsylvania and across the country. Emily and nearly 375,000 Pennsylvanians are counting on it.

Zachary W. Sherman is the executive director of Pennie, the state health insurance marketplace in Pennsylvania. Antoinette Kraus is executive director of the Pennsylvania Health Access Network (PHAN), a statewide organization that connects Pennsylvanians to health insurance and works to expand and protect access to health care. high-quality, equitable and affordable healthcare. She is also a board member of Pennie.