Led by New Hampshire’s congressional delegation, Congress gave a tremendous boost to thousands of Granite Staters and millions more across the nation by increasing health-care-premium subsidies through the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) that passed earlier this year. This financial assistance has helped make health care more affordable and accessible for American families. In New Hampshire alone, almost 23,000 uninsured people became newly eligible for tax credits because of ARPA.
The increased affordability of health insurance has led to a surge in enrollment in the federal health insurance marketplace — nearly three million Americans newly signed up for insurance through HealthCare.gov and the state-based marketplaces during a special enrollment period after these expanded premium tax credits were made available. No marketplace enrollee pays more than 8.5 percent of their household income toward coverage. The reality is, when more people are covered, everyone ends up saving money. This year, returning enrollees have seen their monthly premiums reduced by an average of 50 percent, or $67 per month.
Congress is now debating whether these subsidies will be included in the federal budget. They must be included — and made permanent — or residents of our state will suffer. If Congress fails to do this, approximately 12 million Americans will face higher out-of-pocket costs for marketplace health insurance in 2023. Put another way, expired subsidies means premiums could double for millions of Americans using the marketplace to afford health care.
New Hampshire is among states that would benefit most from making these tax credits permanent. Analysis by the Urban Institute found that with the current subsidies in place, we could reduce the number of uninsured people in our state by 25 percent next year and, nationally, would extend health-care coverage to 4.2 million Americans who would otherwise be uninsured. In fact, a new report estimates that nearly 1 million uninsured children and parents would gain health insurance coverage if the temporary ARPA subsidies were made permanent. Protecting our most vulnerable populations must remain a top priority.
Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, Sen. Maggie Hassan, Congresswoman Annie Kuster and Congressman Chris Pappas fought to include these subsidies in ARPA earlier this year. As Congress debates whether to permanently expand them through the budget reconciliation process, we need to support our delegation to stand firm and ensure the health insurance tax credits are part of the final package sent to the president’s desk.
(The writer, a Democrat, represents District 10 in the N.H. Senate.)