Ohio health care advocates want Congress to extend health insurance purchase subsidies

WASHINGTON, DC — Ohio health care advocates want Congress to extend temporary federal health insurance premium subsidies that expire at the end of the current plan year. They warn that failure to extend the subsidies would jeopardize the health insurance coverage of thousands of Ohioans who would otherwise struggle to pay their premiums.

The U.S. Bailout pandemic relief measure passed last year reduced premium costs for many people who signed up for Affordable Care Act health insurance plans by expanding subsidies that don’t were previously offered only to low-income buyers. If the subsidies expire, people with incomes above four times the federal poverty level will have to pay full price for coverage.

According to a report by the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF), a typical 40-year-old man with an income just over four times the poverty line ($51,520 a year for people taking out coverage in 2022), would see his premiums increase from 8.5% of their income to around 10% of their income if the grants expire. He estimated that maintaining the enhanced subsidies or making them permanent would cost the federal government about $22 billion each year.

Northeast Ohio Black Health Coalition executive director Yvonka Hall called the pursuit of credits “a matter of life and death.” If the credits expire, she said market enrollees would have to spend hundreds of dollars more in bonuses per person per year. She said people earning $12,880 a year and families of four with incomes starting at $26,500 would suffer the greatest coverage losses if the tax credit that subsidizes premiums expires.

“For many, that will mean coverage at the expense of food, utilities and medicine,” Hall told reporters on Thursday.

Molly Nagin, affordable health care navigator at UHCAN Ohio, said the grants have made coverage more affordable for low- and middle-income people in Ohio. She said the loss of tax credits would particularly affect seniors and small business owners.

US Representative Shontel Brown, a Democrat from Warrensville Heights, said the grants have helped more than 200,000 Ohioans afford health insurance. Last month, she joined several dozen Democrats in a letter asking congressional leaders to include language to keep subsidies in an upcoming budget bill.

Insurance premiums are set as we write, and we fully anticipate that our constituents will see a dramatic increase in their premiums in October, under our watch,” the letter reads. “We need to act now to meet the costs, especially when Americans are grappling with steep price increases.”

She said the tax credit in the US bailout allows an Akron family of four with a family income of $75,000 nearly $250 a month in premiums, and saves more than $100 a month for a single Shaker Heights adult making $30,000.

“When many Ohioans head to the polls to vote in November, families will begin to see a drastic increase in premiums during the registration period,” Brown said. Once the tax credits expire, thousands of families across our state will be significantly impacted.

She said she would do whatever she can as a congresswoman “to get across the finish line.”

“Nothing is on the table,” she said.

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