State Subsidies

As I noted in my deep dive into "Gold or Better Enrollment" last week, there are three main reasons why nearly 63% of all ACA exchange enrollees nationally have healthcare policies with 80% or higher Actuarial Values this year:

  • The enhanced federal subsidies provided by the Inflation Reduction Act (set to expire at the end of 2025);
  • Some states (but not most yet, unfortunately) fully embracing robust Premium Alignment w/maximized Silver Loading policies; and
  • About half the states which operate their own full ACA exchange offering supplemental financial subsidies to either reduce premiums, reduce cost sharing or both.

The last bullet includes California, Colorado, Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New Mexico, Vermont and Washington State. In addition, both Minnesota and New York have large numbers of enrollees in their respective Basic Health Plan programs (New York just expanded theirs), which may or may not be considered "state-based subsidies" depending on your perspective.

Last month I posted an explainer about a situation in California which boiled down to a huge pot of extra revenue (~$330 million per year, give or take) being fought over between Governor Gavin Newsom and the Democratically-controlled State Legislature.

The bottom line is that this funding was intended to go towards reducing health insurance premiums for ACA exchange enrollees via Covered California as supplemental subsidies to be added on top of federal ACA tax credits...but the passage of the American Rescue Plan and the subsequent Inflation Reduction Act kind of made that moot, since the federal subsidies were made more generous than what the state subsidies would have been anyway.

As a result, Gov. Newsom decided that the extra revenue should go into the general state fund, while Democrats on the state legislature wanted to redirect it to eliminate deductibles and other types of cost sharing for ACA enrollees instead. This led to an impasse for the past several months:

This post has a long intro, but please bear with me...

Back in 2018, after the then-Republican controlled Congress zeroed out the ACA's federal "individual mandate penalty" (officially the "shared responsibility penalty"), I posted both a video and slideshow explainer about what this penalty was and why it was included in the ACA in the first place.

The very short and simplified version is this:

A lifetime ago (well, mid-February of this year, anyway), I wrote about New Mexico's Health Care Affordability Fund (HB 278), a bill which easily passed through the state House...only to be inexplicably stopped in its tracks in the state Senate a few days later.

The bill in question wasn't terribly complicated; it essentially just placed a new fee on health insurance carriers to finance a new fund which would in turn be used to reduce healthcare coverage costs for low- and middle-income New Mexicans. Furthermore, since some of the fees would be imposed on managed Medicaid programs which are mostly federally funded, it would have leveraged tens of millions of dollars in federal funding as opposed to all of the fees coming from state residents. Had it gone into effect, HB 278 was expected to generate around $125 million in revenue for the state to use to reduce premiums and cost sharing for enrollees.