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Insurance Department Highlights Increased Health Care Protections within the American Rescue Plan

03/17/2021

Harrisburg, PA – Pennsylvania Insurance Commissioner Jessica Altman, recognizing the overall significance of the passage of the American Rescue Plan, today stressed the opportunity to expand health insurance coverage due to the increased protections for the uninsured, underinsured and individuals who have lost their employment due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

"In addition to the financial assistance provided through the forthcoming stimulus checks, the Biden Administration's COVID-19 relief package will create savings for thousands of Pennsylvanians who already have plans sold through Pennie™ and the opportunity for thousands more to secure newly affordable coverage," said Altman.

Increased access to affordable health coverage is more important than ever as the country continues to fight COVID-19 and plan for our national recovery. This access is especially vital in making sure all Pennsylvanians have access to the resources needed to combat the health crisis, including testing and vaccines. The American Rescue Plan provides increased funding for COVID-19 testing and for vaccine distribution.  The plan also improves access for Pennsylvanians to affordable health coverage and creates more opportunities for individuals to keep their employer-sponsored coverage if they have recently lost their jobs.

Specifically, the American Rescue Plan will dramatically increase access to comprehensive health insurance coverage across the Commonwealth by:

  • Increasing the subsidies available on Pennie™ for those who are currently eligible by lowering the caps on premiums, as well as eliminates the 400 percent federal poverty limit ceiling on subsidy eligibility. This will both increase the subsidies available to those who were already eligible, while also extending subsidies to many middle-income households who were previously ineligible.
  • Providing the maximum available Affordable Care Act premium subsidies and reduced cost-sharing for anyone who receives, or are eligible to receive, unemployment compensation at any point throughout this year. 
  • Subsidizing 100 percent of COBRA premiums for six months for individuals who lost their employer-sponsored coverage due to layoffs or reduced hours.
  • Forgiving more than $6 billion in payments that individuals would need to make if their 2020 advanced premium subsidies did not match their income with the removal of reconciliation.

"Through this bill, marketplace premiums will be capped at 8.5 percent of a household's income for 2021 and 2022. Many individuals currently receiving subsidies will pay even less in premium, and anyone who became or will become eligible for unemployment income at any time throughout 2021 will be eligible for coverage with a $0 premium for 2021," said Altman. "Collectively, these changes will provide an extraordinary opportunity for individuals to protect themselves and their families by securing health insurance, particularly as we continue to grapple with COVID-19."

The plan makes way for people who receive unemployment at any point during 2021 to receive the maximum subsidies available to them, potentially opening up eligibility for a "silver"-tier plan without a premium, as well as cost-sharing subsidies that lower the cost of copayments and deductibles.

The potential savings for many Pennsylvanians is striking. For example, a 40-year-old with income of $19,300 could enroll in a zero-dollar plan and realize an estimated $800 in annual premium savings through Pennie. A family of four with household income of $52,400 enrolled in the benchmark silver plan could save over $2,300 on their annual premium. Although the plan does not change the ACA's financial assistance for deductibles and other cost-sharing for most enrollees, the enhanced premium subsidies could help them afford more generous plans, allowing them to lower their out-of-pocket costs.

"Because of the American Rescue Plan, quality health coverage has never been more obtainable for Pennsylvanians. The resulting premium savings will deliver much needed financial relief to current Pennie customers as well as those who could not previously afford health" said Pennie's Executive Director Zachary W. Sherman. In the coming months, Pennie will conduct broad outreach and education to Pennsylvanians in the interest of driving public awareness and connecting customers to the enhanced subsidies available through the marketplace. We will move quickly to implement these changes in the interest of delivering this financial relief as expeditiously as possible," noted Sherman. 

If a consumer receives an unexpected bill related to COVID-19, or other healthcare services, they are encouraged to contact the department at 1-877-881-6388.

MEDIA CONTACTS:          Thaisa Jones, PID, thajones@pa.gov

                                           Chachi Angelo, Pennie, chaangelo@pa.gov

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