Some Coloradans face health insurance crisis if Congress balks on tax credits

Bennet, Hickenlooper push to extend savings for thousands of residents who buy their own coverage

By: - July 12, 2022 4:30 am

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More than 150,000 Coloradans are facing a big spike in health insurance premiums next year, a recent report warns, unless Congress acts soon to extend enhanced tax credits.

Nationally, a report from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services found that more than 3 million people who buy their own health insurance could lose coverage in 2023.

“At a minimum, we should extend the enhanced tax credits from the American Rescue Plan to 2025, so we can continue to build on the progress of the Affordable Care Act,” U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet of Colorado told Colorado Newsline in an email. “That change alone would provide coverage to another 87,000 Coloradans, and it would save 88,000 Coloradans hundreds of dollars per year. I’d like to go even further and make these tax credits permanent.”

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Bennet and Colorado U.S. Sen John Hickenlooper late last year pushed hard to extend enhanced American Rescue Plan tax benefits, which dramatically reduced premiums for people who are not insured by an employer and purchase plans on the state exchange.

Those efforts fizzled along with the rest of the Biden administration’s Build Back Better budget reconciliation plan. But now holdout moderate Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia is indicating he may be open to some sort of deal, but the clock is ticking heading into the annual August recess.

Also on the table is a provision that would allow the U.S. government to negotiate prescription drug prices for Medicare beneficiaries, saving billions of dollars, and a move to shore up the financial stability of Medicare by closing a tax loophole.

In Colorado, the cost of prescription drugs is rising the fastest, compared to all other health costs. That’s unacceptable,” Bennet said. “We should allow Medicare to negotiate drug prices, implement measures to stop pharmaceutical companies from price gouging, and cap drug costs for seniors.”

In February, Bennet and U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock of Georgia also introduced a bill that would cap the out of-pocket cost of insulin at $35 per month – similar to a Colorado cap on the drug. 

In Colorado, the cost of prescription drugs is rising the fastest, compared to all other health costs. That’s unacceptable.

– U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet

With recent skyrocketing inflation and cost-of-living increases, lowering prescription drug prices is popular in both major parties right now, but bolstering the ACA remains a hurdle for Republicans who have long tried to scuttle Obamacare.

Bennet and Hickenlooper, both Democrats, last month urged Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., to prioritize extending the Advanced Premium Tax Credit. 

And Colorado Gov. Jared Polis recently joined a group of Democratic governors sending a letter to congressional leaders warning of dire consequences if health care subsidies end.

Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, job upheaval and the enhanced tax credits, Colorado hit record enrollment on its state exchange this year, with 198,000 individuals enrolling for coverage, and premiums dropped an average of 30%. HHS estimates 155,000 Coloradans will see reduced or eliminated financial support if ARPA tax credits expire at the end of 2022.

“The expanded tax credits provided through the ARP have significantly improved affordability and increased the number of Coloradans enrolling in private health insurance,” said Adam Fox, deputy director of the Colorado Consumer Health Initiative, in an email. “This has been vital, with continuous eligibility in Medicaid, to keeping Coloradans covered in the midst of the pandemic.”

Fox adds that the expanded credits have been vital to Coloradans in high-cost non-metro-area communities where tens of thousands of people will see huge jumps in premiums in 2023.

With inflation and other costs of living increasing, Coloradans don’t need to see their health insurance spike as well,” Fox said. “We know Colorado’s senators have advocated extending these vital tax credits, and it’s time for the rest of the Senate to step up, or millions of Americans will see spikes in what they pay for insurance premiums next year.”

The campaign for Republican Joe O’Dea, a businessman running against Bennet in November, did not respond to requests for comment on the recent negotiations over health insurance subsidies or lowering prescription drug prices.

During the recent GOP primary campaign, O’Dea said he would not vote to repeal the Affordable Care Act, which Republicans tried and failed to do in 2017, because of the Trump administration rollback of tax penalties for the uninsured.

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David O. Williams
David O. Williams

David O. Williams is an award-winning freelance journalist based in EagleVail, Colorado. His work has appeared in more than 75 publications around the world and he owns and operates RealVail.com.

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