APTC

This afternoon, the Congressional Budget Office released their 10-year "score" report of the largest single chunk of the House Democrats version of the American Rescue Plan from the Ways & Means Committee:

Legislation Summary

S. Con. Res. 5, the Concurrent Resolution on the Budget for Fiscal Year 2021, instructed several committees of the House of Representatives to recommend legislative changes that would increase deficits up to a specified amount over the 2021-2030 period. As part of this reconciliation process, the House Committee on Ways and Means approved legislation on February 10 and 11, 2021, with a number of provisions that would increase deficits. The legislation would extend unemployment benefits, establish a pandemic emergency fund, increase subsidies for health insurance, provide cash payments to eligible people, expand several tax credits, and modify rules for pensions, among other provisions designed to mitigate the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic caused by the coronavirus.

*(Yes, believe it or not, I was able to come up with an extreme example of an older couple in Oklahoma managing to save a jaw-dropping $64,000/year in heath insurance premiums if the American Rescue Plan is passed, signed and implemented.)

When President Biden announced that HealthCare.Gov would be re-launching an extended Special Enrollment Period in light of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, I wasn't surprised at all; in fact, I would have been shocked if he hadn't ordered the HHS Dept. to do so. I was surprised by how long the new COVID Enrollment Period would be: A full 3 months (I had been expecting either 30, 45 or perhaps 60 days at the outside).

The more I thought about it, however, I realized three good reasons to re-open HC.gov all the way out until mid-May. The first two I already wrote about several weeks ago:

Earlier this evening, the House Ways & Means Committee formally published the markup of nine legislative provisions which, if they all survive the process, will make up roughly half of President Biden's proposed $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package, aka the American Rescue Plan:

The Ways and Means’ proposals comprise half of the $1.9 trillion Democratic COVID-19 relief package

SPRINGFIELD, MA – Today, House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard E. Neal (D-MA) announced the Committee will consider nine legislative proposals under the budget reconciliation instructions this week as the next step in delivering COVID-19 relief to the American people. Beginning on Wednesday, February 10, 2021 at 10:00 a.m. through Friday, February 12, 2021, the Committee will markup proposals spanning from extending unemployment insurance to expanding the child tax credit to delivering another round of direct assistance to struggling Americans.

UPDATE: Everything below refers to HR 369, but the American Rescue Plan, HR 1319, contains a virtually identical expansion of ACA subsidies...if only for two years.

Note that under HR 1319 (AmRescuePlan), the first year would be retroactive, meaning that current ACA enrollees should receive additional subsidies dating back to January 2021, though I don't know what form that will take...rebate checks, credit towards future premiums or an extra tax refund next spring.

Over the past couple of years, one of the things I've become known for is my obsessive fixation on visually displaying how much various households would save on healthcare premiums if various ACA subsidy-boosting bills were passed compared with the current ACA subsidy structure.

Back on January 14th, I noted that President Biden's proposed $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan includes a couple of interesting ACA-specific provisions:

Roughly two to three million people lost employer sponsored health insurance between March and September, and even families who have maintained coverage may struggle to pay premiums and afford care. Further, going into this crisis, 30 million people were without coverage, limiting their access to the health care system in the middle of a pandemic. To ensure access to health coverage, President-elect Biden is calling on Congress to subsidize continuation health coverage (COBRA) through the end of September. He is also asking Congress to expand and increase the value of the Premium Tax Credit to lower or eliminate health insurance premiums and ensure enrollees - including those who never had coverage through their jobs - will not pay more than 8.5 percent of their income for coverage.

Together, these policies would reduce premiums for more than ten million people and reduce the ranks of the uninsured by millions more.

Note: This is the second or third time that I'm cribbing a bit from my friend & colleague Andrew Sprung over at Xpostfactoid. If you like my healthcare policy analysis/writing style and follow me on Twitter, you should follow him at @xpostfactoid as well.

Over at Xpostfactoid, Andrew Sprung beat me to the punch by several days with an excellent two-part look at the "ACA 2.0 Hunger Games" scenario.

During the Democratic primary season, I posted a simple graph which boiled down the four major types of healthcare policy overhaul favored by the various Democratic Presidential candidates...which also largely cover the gamut of systems preferred by various Democratic members of the House and Senate.

via Amy Lotven of Inside Health Policy:

CMS tells Inside Health Policy that Affordable Care Act enrollees who have reconciled their 2019 advanced premium tax credits (APTCs) as required can keep their 2021 subsidies, even if they were notified that they’re at risk of losing them, by checking a box on their exchange application. But Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA) tells IHP he wants the government to do more to help enrollees.

...The ACA requires exchange enrollees to estimate their next year’s income to determine their eligibility for tax credits and then reconcile that prediction with actual income during tax filing season. Regulations also require CMS to cut off future year tax credits if IRS data show that an applicant filed a return yet failed to reconcile their APTCs.

via Greg Land at Benefits Pro:

Amid a pandemic-stricken nation struggling to find ways to reopen, massive unemployment and employees lucky enough to have jobs hanging onto them as tightly as possible, New York health care strategists are floating a plan to offer health insurance tax credits assistance to loan-saddled college graduates who have no overage or fear of losing what they do have.

As envisioned in a new report released last week by the United Hospital Fund, recent college graduates could be allowed to deduct the monthly costs of their student loan payments from their total adjusted income as calculated under the Affordable Care Act. 

Late last night, the U.S. Senate finally voted to approve a massive $2 TRILLION bailout/recovery bill in response to the Coronavirus pandemic. After a lot of haggling and drama, the final bill ended up passing unanimously, 96 - 0 (four Republican Senators weren't able to vote at all...due to being in self-isolation because of Coronavirus). It's expected to be quickly passed by unanimous consent in the House today and will presumably be signed by Donald Trump before nightfall.

And like that, the largest emergency economic influx bill in history is done.

There's a lot of explainers and thinkpieces being written about the bill as a whole...which elements are good, which are bad, which are flat-out offensive (especially the ~$500 billion in corporate giveaways, which still ended up in the final bill although they supposedly have some sort of oversight over which companies receive them and under what conditions), but my focus is of course on the healthcare aspects, and especially what it means for enrollment in ACA exchange plans and Medicaid via ACA expansion.

With the 2020 Open Enrollment Period rapidly approaching (it actually kicks off on October 15th in California, and on November 1st in every other state + DC), it's important to keep in mind that many people who didn't qualify for financial assistance in 2019 may qualify in 2020...and in some cases that could mean a difference of thousands of dollars due to how the ACA subsidy formula works and other factors.

First, a refresher on how the ACA formula works for Individual Market enrollees (that is, people who are looking to buy health insurance for themselves and/or their family who don't receive it through their employer, Medicare, Medicaid, CHIP or some other source).

First of all, what is the Federal Poverty Level? Well, that increases a bit every year...and for 2020, it's increasing by around 2.7%:

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