Health insurance premiums will cost $10 or less each month next year for four out of five consumers shopping for health insurance on the Affordable Care Act (ACA) marketplaces, the Biden administration announced on Monday. The savings come from higher subsidies for most Americans that Congress passed last spring under the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA).
On Monday, Nov. 1, open enrollment for ACA plans will give consumers the widest variety of health insurance options and the lowest prices ever, said Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Xavier Becerra. Also, HHS quadrupled the number of health insurance navigators available to guide consumers seeking information on how to sign up, and added an extra month to the open enrollment period, which ends on Jan. 15.
According to Becerra, health insurance costs are the lowest ever because the ARPA increased the subsidies for monthly premiums through Dec. 31, 2022. Technically, those increased funds are called enhanced premium tax credit subsidies, the Center for Health Insurance Reforms explained in a recent blog post about open enrollment.
“Under the enhanced premium credits, families with incomes between 100% and 150% of the federal poverty level could have their premium contribution reduced to $0,” Center on Health Insurance Reforms faculty wrote. “Families with incomes over 400% of the federal poverty level would have their premium contribution capped at 8.5% of their household income.”
This open enrollment period is the first under President Biden as he seeks to restore the landmark health reform law after the Trump administration spent four years trying to undermine it, CNN’s Tami Lubhy noted on Monday.
“An additional 2.8 million people signed up for coverage on the federal and state marketplaces during a six-month special enrollment period that Biden launched in mid-February,” Lubhy wrote. “A record 12.2 million Americans were enrolled in Affordable Care Act policies, as of mid-September.”
Last week, Selena Simmons-Duffin and Janet W. Lee wrote a great explainer for NPR about what all consumers need to know about signing up for health insurance for coverage that starts Jan. 1. They covered Medicare, Medicaid, the Children’s Health Insurance Program, veterans, and most other consumers.
They also warned consumers about potentially hazardous health insurance options that do not comply with the ACA’s requirements, meaning the plans will not provide comprehensive coverage for people and families. Non-ACA-compliant plans often leave consumers with large surprise bills, as Jenny Deam and Maya Miller reported in May.
“The first piece of advice is this: Don’t do an online search for ‘I need health insurance’ and expect the internet to help you out,” Simmons-Duffin and Lee wrote. “That’s an easy way to end up on sketchy websites or bombarded with ads and phone calls. Instead, figure out where to go — based on your age, job, income — and go straight there to find a plan.”
The best place to find ACA-compliant coverage is Healthcare.gov or the state-run ACA marketplaces, such as Your Health Idaho, DC Health Link, or the Massachusetts Health Connector, Simmons-Duffin and Lee added. Consumers will find ACA-compliant plans only on these sites. “If you hear ‘health insurance marketplace’ or ‘insurance exchange’ or ‘Obamacare insurance’ — they’re all the same thing,” they added.
Congress is currently considering ways to extend the premium tax credit subsidies under the ARPA, but for now, those credits are due to end next year. We have covered the benefits consumers buying health insurance get under the ARPA in several blog posts, including this one from earlier this month, Report shows consumers could save even more on health insurance; this one from April, “New health insurance subsidies will require strong explanatory journalism skills;” and this one from March, “Resources for journalists on how the American Rescue Plan will reduce the number of uninsured Americans.”
Another good resource for covering open enrollment and the effects of the ARPA comes from Louise Norris at HealthInsurance.org: ACA Open Enrollment 2022 Guide.