Iowans who lack health insurance — and those who might be eligible for cheaper coverage — have until Jan. 15 to enroll in plans subsidized by the federal government.
“What makes this so important is that having health insurance is simply vital in today’s America,” Joseph Palm, a regional director for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, said Tuesday.
“Even when you’re young, you never know when illness or major injury will happen. In our health care system, health insurance is your ticket that opens doors to high-quality care that could save your life and protect all the things you have,” Palm said. “Without health insurance, a single injury could wipe out a lifetime of savings and impoverish you and your family.”
There have been three notable changes to the Affordable Care Act that might encourage more residents to enroll, and the current enrollment period coincides with a potential end of expanded Iowa Medicaid coverage when the federal public health emergency expires.
That emergency declaration — which is tied to the coronavirus pandemic — could end in January. After that, the Iowa Department of Health and Human Services will reevaluate who is eligible for Medicaid. The emergency declaration required the Iowa Medicaid program to continue coverage for people who might have started earning more money during the pandemic that would normally have made them ineligible for coverage.
The three noteworthy changes include:
— Family members of someone who has employer-provided insurance are more likely to be eligible for government-subsidized plans. The employer’s family plan must be more than 9.1% of household income to be eligible. Previously, the eligibility threshold was based on the employer’s individual plan cost, which is typically less expensive.
— A hard-and-fast income cap has been eliminated. Previously, individuals who earned more than about $54,000 or families of four who earned more than $111,000 were ineligible. Now, the government subsidies lessen for higher earners, but they are still eligible.
— There are additional subsidies for lower-income households that might enable them to pay low or no premiums.
Those who want to enroll and shop for the federally subsidized plans can go online to healthcare.gov. Those who need assistance with the process can contact Iowa Navigator, a federally funded non-profit organization that offers free help.
Palm said about 72,000 Iowans obtained health insurance through the federal marketplace last year and saved an average of about $1,200 on their annual premiums.
“Every single one of those people is someone who is just relieved to have this affordable coverage, and maybe they wouldn’t have had it otherwise,” said Matt Sinovic, executive director of Progress Iowa.
The upcoming deadlines are Dec. 15 for coverage to begin in January and Jan. 15 for coverage starting in February.
— Annmarie Timmins of the New Hampshire Bulletin contributed to this report.