New stimulus opens up health care savings

Advisors recommend getting agent to help navigate new stimulus health benefits

BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
PCC EDITOR

FORT MADISON – The $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan signed into law on March 11 has changed the landscape of health care options in America… again.

The new plan caps the amount Americans will pay for marketplace plans under the Affordable Care Act at 8.5% of their income.

Justin Pieper and Tim Budnik of Group Benefit Partners said there is much for people to know about the new law, and with all the changes having an agent is the best way to go in most cases.

“In a normal year there was only an open enrollment from Nov. 1 to Dec. 15th,” Budnik said. “Because of COVID they’ve opened up another enrollment period that was initially Feb. 1 to May 15th and now they’ve changed that to Feb. 1 to Aug. 15th.

“It’s allowing people uninsured, and that was kind of the goal, to jump on and get insurance with no questions asked,” he said.

Budnik said he’s seen a substantial uptick in the number of people signing up for insurance.

Pieper said there used to be a substantial cliff for people who were above the 400% federal poverty level.

“If you were below it you qualified for a nice subsidy to purchase coverage. If you were a penny above it you had to pay full price,” Pieper said.

Pieper said those who were even a penny over that 400% income threshold when they filed taxes could have had to pay back thousands of dollars in subsidies. He said under the new stimulus anyone who received too much subsidy in 2020 only, won’t have to pay back those subsidies.

He also said those who were involuntarily terminated in 2020 and offered COBRA coverage can now get that paid for 100% until Sept. 30, retroactive 60 days.

It is still unknown if the state exchanges will implement a special enrollment period once that COBRA benefit runs out at the end of September.

Budnik said current enrollees need to re-submit their applications and enrollments in order to get new eligibility results and a reduction in premiums. New subsidies will be applied to premiums starting May 1.

The new plan will make 3.6 million Americans now eligible for health care savings. Current Bronze enrollees below the 150% of federal poverty level or $19,140 will now be eligible for a free silver plan under the new law, which expires at the end of 2022. For a family of four that benchmark is $39,300.

A single adult age 50 making $51,649, which is 401% of the federal poverty level, was paying $632 per month for coverage before the ARP. That individual is now capped at 8.5% and will only pay $362 for a monthly savings of $270.

Older Americans, such as a 60 year old couple making 401% at $69,854 was saddled with full premiums before the ARP Act. That couple is now capped at 8.5% or $496 saving them close to $1,425 per month, or an annual savings of $17,102, according an ACA new open enrollment sign up sheet.

If you are currently collecting unemployment, the plan sets your poverty level automatically at 133% and some of those individuals would be eligible for additional benefits.

Budnik recommended contacting Group Benefit Partners to navigate all the changes.

“There’s no cost to them for the services of an agent,” he said.

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