May 12, 2020

Cardin, Van Hollen, Democratic Senators Lead Effort to Ensure Maximum Financial Assistance for Those Enrolled in ACA Exchange Plans

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen (Both D-Md.), Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) and Ed Markey (D-Mass.), have introduced legislation that would enable individuals collecting enhanced federal unemployment compensation to receive maximum financial assistance when enrolled in Affordable Care Act (ACA) marketplace plans. The bill also temporarily eliminates the repayment burden of excess advance premium tax credits. For those eligible for advance premium tax credits or cost-sharing reductions for ACA marketplace plans, the $600 weekly bump in federal unemployment benefits could result in reduced financial assistance for their health insurance during the current COVID-19 pandemic when affordable, quality health insurance is essential. In addition, due to the uncertainty of employment during this public health emergency, eliminating the repayment burden of excess advance premium tax credits will help unemployed consumers manage what they may owe in the 2021 and 2022 tax seasons if they end up with a higher annual income than they had expected.

The CARES Act included a $600 weekly add-on in federal unemployment compensation. This $600/week in unemployment compensation is not included in monthly income when determining an individual’s Medicaid and CHIP eligibility. However, it currently counts towards a consumer’s annual income when determining financial assistance (premium tax credit or cost-sharing reductions) for ACA marketplace plans. Exempting the $600/week federal UI payment from annual income will increase the amount of financial assistance unemployed consumers will qualify for, thereby lowering a consumer’s monthly health insurance premium or out-of-pocket costs. The legislation also protects those who may, for the first time, qualify for financial assistance for ACA marketplace plans due to the $600 weekly add-on.

“Congress is providing unemployed Americans an extra boost during this pandemic to help them get by during a public health emergency. It should not be an impediment to getting the quality health coverage they need in the midst of a pandemic,” said Senator Cardin. “To be fair, the $600 unemployment supplement should be exempt from income determinations in all categories of federal or state assistance.”

“As families struggle to put food on the table and pay their bills, no American should have to worry about their temporary unemployment benefits driving up the costs of their health care. This bill will help ensure Americans get the assistance they need, without unintended consequences,” said Senator Van Hollen. 

“This legislation is a commonsense solution to ensure that Granite Staters and Americans across the country can access expanded unemployment benefits without having to lose financial assistance for the cost of health insurance premiums,” said Senator Shaheen. “As we navigate this crisis, we need to make changes to the law wherever possible to help families weather this storm in the weeks and months ahead.”

“Access to affordable and comprehensive health insurance is absolutely essential during this public health crisis. The last thing families should be worried about when collecting unemployment insurance is the possibility of losing their health coverage or not having access to it during a pandemic,” said Senator Bennet. “This legislation will provide certainty to families and Colorado’s state marketplace so that every American can see their doctor or health provider when they need it.”

“People who are already worried about making ends meet without a job during this pandemic should not have to worry about affording health insurance,” Senator Brown said. “Now more than ever we need to remove barriers to quality and affordable healthcare and ensure that families enrolled in exchange plans have the financial assistance they need.”

“We’ve expanded unemployment insurance to help our workers during  this crisis, but we cannot have that additional assistance hurt the people we’re trying to help, or deprive Americans of needed health care coverage,” said Senator Markey. “This legislation will ensure that struggling, unemployed workers don’t have to worry about coverage for their physical health as they work to improve their financial wellbeing.”

A one-page summary of the bill can be found here.

The bill text can be found here.

In Maryland, those individuals earning $39,000-$40,000 before unemployment will be the most impacted. They miss qualifying for Maryland Medicaid because the state monthly unemployment income for these individuals will be $1,500- $1,538. The monthly income limit for Maryland Medicaid eligibility is $1,470.

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