What does the American Rescue Plan mean for health care in Connecticut?

By Jill Zorn

What does the American Rescue Plan mean for health care in Connecticut?

After what felt like ages of back and forth, congress has finally passed the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan Act. It will give much needed relief to Connecticut residents who have struggled to afford health care, and give a huge boost to state revenues to improve vaccine delivery and public health.

Subsidies are extended for the first time to people with incomes over 400% of the federal poverty level (FPL). This makes sure that no marketplace enrollee spends more than 8.5 percent of their income on premiums.

This change will provide dramatic help for middle income earners in Connecticut. As an example, a 60-year-old single person earning $55,000 a year (430% FPL) would see a $959 drop in the cost of their monthly premium, according to Kaiser Family Foundation.

Affordability for those below 400% FPL, who are already receiving subsidies, will also improve. The bill specifically guarantees access to a plan with a zero out-of-pocket premium for people with incomes at or slightly above the poverty level (100–150%). And, it allows for more generous subsidies for anyone who collects unemployment during 2021, even if they begin earning again during the year.

A major political challenge will be to get Congress to extend these crucial affordability measures beyond 2022.

The bill provides no relief to help small businesses with their health care costs. And affordability for lower income people will remain a challenge, even with these enhancements, due to both high out-of-pocket costs and Connecticut’s overall expensive cost of living.

Through September 31, 2021, eligible individuals and families who lost their jobs or had their work hours reduced will have 100% of their premiums for COBRA continuation coverage paid for by the federal government.

Additionally, people who lost their jobs in 2020 or earlier in 2021 to go back and elect COBRA coverage now.

The bill provides major financial incentives to the 12 states that still have not expanded Medicaid coverage under the ACA — coverage that was taken up in Connecticut in 2014, as soon as it became available. A few other provisions in the bill will be helpful in our state:

  • People who use Medicaid or CHIP will be able to get COVID-19 treatment or vaccines without cost sharing for a full year after the pandemic ends.
  • States can also choose to extend the use of emergency Medicaid to provide COVID-19 vaccines and treatment to individuals who are usually ineligible for Medicaid and receive 100 percent federal match
  • Gives states a new option to extend Medicaid coverage for new mothers from 60 days to 12 months.

Public Health

Support for COVID-19 public health measures totals almost $93 billion, most of which will be available until it has been spent. Key provisions include:

  • Enhances vaccine distribution and administration, including establishment and expansion of community vaccination centers and mobile vaccination units, particularly in underserved areas
  • Improves the testing and contact tracing infrastructure
  • Expands the public health workforce
  • Increases funding for community health centers
  • Invests in the supply chain to ensure we have everything needed to manufacture and deliver vaccinations and therapeutics, and have adequate testing and PPE supplies

Resources

https://www.kff.org/health-reform/issue-brief/how-the-american-rescue-plan-will-improve-affordability-of-private-health-coverage/

https://www.kff.org/policy-watch/whats-in-the-american-rescue-plan-for-covid-19-vaccine-and-other-public-health-efforts/

https://www.communitycatalyst.org/news/press-releases/senate-american-rescue-plan-act-would-extend-affordable-health-coverage-to-millions-struggling-amid-pandemic

https://www.cbpp.org/research/poverty-and-inequality/american-rescue-plan-act-will-help-millions-and-bolster-the-economy#health

https://aspe.hhs.gov/2021-poverty-guidelines

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