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HHS announces reduced costs, expanded access for marketplace health coverage under ARP

Four out of five consumers will be able to find a plan for $10 or less per month with the newly expanded financial assistance.

Jeff Lagasse, Associate Editor

(Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)(Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra announced on Thursday that additional savings and lower healthcare costs are available for consumers on HealthCare.gov due to the American Rescue Plan, which has increased tax credits available to consumers. Becerra said this has reduced premiums and increased access to affordable coverage.

HHS also announced an additional $50 million in advertising to bolster the special enrollment period outreach campaign. The campaign will run through August 15.

WHAT'S THE IMPACT?

Premium tax-credit calculations for the marketplaces on HealthCare.gov are now adjusted so that most consumers qualify for more substantial advance payments of premium tax credits. Many Americans on the marketplaces are expected to see their premiums decrease, on average, by $50 per person per month and $85 per policy per month, according to HHS. 

An average of four out of five consumers currently enrolled in a plan through HealthCare.gov will be able to find a plan for $10 or less per month with the newly expanded financial assistance under the ARP, said Becerra. And after advance payments of the premium tax credits, an average of three out of five uninsured adults eligible for coverage on the federal platform may be able to access a zero-premium plan, and nearly three out of four may find a plan for $50 or less per month.

Current enrollees should review their application, make any changes needed to their current information, submit their application, and select a plan (or reselect their current plan) to receive the increased advance payments of premium tax credits for 2021 Marketplace coverage. Those who take action in April and who confirm updated savings on their plan of their choice will start receiving the savings starting with their May 1 premiums, according to HHS.

Consumers who want to enroll in coverage and see if they qualify for more affordable premiums can visit HealthCare.gov or CuidadoDeSalud.gov, or call the marketplace call center, to view 2021 plans and prices and enroll in one if eligible.

Those who live in a state that operates its own marketplace platform should visit their state marketplace website or call center for more information about when the additional savings will be available.

THE LARGER TREND

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services said in March that it's extending the special enrollment period for Affordable Care Act coverage from May 15 until August 15. This provides new and current enrollees an additional three months to enroll or re-evaluate their coverage with increased tax credits made available through the ARP.

The additional tax credits reduce premiums by an average of $50 per person per month, and $85 per policy per month. On average, one out of four enrollees on HeathCare.gov will be able to upgrade to a higher plan category that offers better out-of-pocket costs at the same or lower premium compared with what they're paying today, CMS said. 

The tax-credit savings are expected to reduce the cost of coverage for nine million consumers currently receiving financial assistance by ensuring consumers who are eligible for premium tax credits have at least a couple of plans to choose from that won't cost more than 8.5% of their household income.

This week, CMS launched an educational campaign that focuses on raising awareness among the uninsured about the new savings and the availability of assistance to pay for premiums for those who qualify during the special enrollment period.

CMS is also communicating with current enrollees to let them know they can also use this opportunity to update their enrollment information and access the expanded financial assistance. The outreach campaign includes broadcast and digital advertising and educates enrollees with email and text messages.

ON THE RECORD

"We're delivering lower health care costs to more Americans because everyone deserves access to quality, affordable healthcare," said Becerra. "Today help is here and millions of Americans can start saving money on their health insurance premiums thanks to the American Rescue Plan.

"The Biden Administration is committed to bringing down healthcare costs for families. Consumers can save money by visiting HealthCare.gov and choosing a plan that works for them and their budget. HHS will be reaching out to encourage Americans to use the Special Enrollment Period to sign up for quality, affordable coverage through HealthCare.gov."
 

Twitter: @JELagasse
Email the writer: jeff.lagasse@himssmedia.com