The coronavirus pandemic certainly emphasized the importance of having affordable health insurance coverage. While nearly 29 million Americans did not have insurance prior to the pandemic, that number has increased significantly in the past year, as millions lost their jobs and employer-based care, or left the workforce to care for their families.
The problem of finding affordable health insurance is particularly challenging for adults ages 50-64 who often are forced to pay dramatically higher premiums. In fact, a new analysis from AARP’s Public Policy Institute found that nearly half of adults in that age group who purchase their own health insurance faced unaffordable health coverage in 2019, compared to only 30% of younger adults. For example, a 64-year-old earning $49,000 a year would have faced a premium of 30% of their income — a price tag that would put health insurance out of reach for many.
Fortunately, two new policy changes in Washington could help millions of uninsured Americans secure health coverage at a price they can afford.
The federal government has opened a special enrollment period now through Aug. 15, when anyone without insurance can purchase it through Pennie, the state’s Health Insurance Marketplace. Perhaps even more importantly, a recent provision of the American Rescue Plan Act will give extra financial assistance for the next two years to eligible Pennsylvanians purchasing health coverage though the Pennie Marketplace.
That’s good news for as many as 363,000 Pennsylvanians ages 50 to 64 who could potentially be helped by this special enrollment period and expanded premium tax credits. The 157,975 older adults in Pennsylvania who currently are uninsured and could be eligible for coverage through the Health Insurance Marketplace or Medicaid may now pay as little as $0 for their coverage.
The limited time financial incentives also will offer an important opportunity to help reduce racial and ethnic health insurance coverage disparities. While the ACA significantly reduced uninsured rates nationwide, significant gaps in Pennsylvania remain. Of adults aged 50-64, 12.2% of Hispanic/Latino adults, 8.2% of Asian adults, 9.3% Black adults, and 5.1% of White adults in Pennsylvania are currently uninsured.
We believe no American should be cut off from the opportunity to live a healthy life. AARP Pennsylvania encourages all state residents who are uninsured or struggling to afford health insurance to visit www.pennie.com for more information and to shop for affordable health insurance. The recent changes mean those who already qualify for reduced premiums may get even more help, while those who were not previously eligible may now qualify for reduced premiums. In addition, anyone receiving unemployment insurance in 2021 will not have to pay premiums for Pennie Marketplace plans.
As we continue fighting for older adults to have access to affordable health care, AARP is offering additional resources and information about the special enrollment period and new subsidies at www.aarp.org/ACA. Together, we can further help reduce disparities and address the problems of health care costs.
Joanne Corte Grossi is state president of AARP Pennsylvania. Rawle Andrews Jr. is regional vice president of AARP.
Originally Appeared Here