Nationwide, health insurance participation in the Affordable Care Act’s individual market is growing and increased competition is helping drive down consumer premiums. In Pennsylvania, UPMC Health Plan is one of eight health insurance providers offering affordable coverage options to more than 400,000 enrollees in 2022. Through the COVID-19 special enrollment period that ran from February 2021 to August 2021 and thanks to temporary premium subsidies provided through the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), the commonwealth has enrolled more Pennsylvanians in affordable coverage than ever before.
The ARPA subsidies are set to expire at the end of 2022. Congress could reauthorize these subsidies, so individuals who otherwise may not be able to afford coverage can maintain access to affordable, high quality health care. Elimination of ARPA’s subsidies would lead to higher numbers of uninsured and increased uncompensated care, which would place additional strain on hospital staffing and resources and ultimately result in poorer health outcomes, particularly among those in underserved communities.
At UPMC Health Plan, we hear from Pennsylvanians every day who cannot afford premium increases and who want to keep the health coverage they have. Pennsylvania’s health insurance marketplace, Pennie, reports that nearly 90% of individuals enrolled during the 2022 open enrollment received an average financial savings of $500 a month. Without access to ARPA subsidies, these individuals and families will struggle to maintain coverage.
With the likely expiration of the public health emergency and its impact on Medicaid eligibility, there is also likely to be significant disruption to the millions of Americans currently enrolled in Medicaid. Without ARPA subsidies, many of these individuals and families will likely be left without any viable coverage options.
Affordable coverage is central to improving access to high quality health care and thanks to the enhanced subsidies and premium assistance available through ARPA, affordable coverage is now a reality for over 400,000 Pennsylvanians. Extending these tax credits will ensure this safety net remains firmly in place.
Kimberly Orth is the president of UPMC Commercial Products at UPMC Health Plan.