Deadlines for subsidized health insurance registration are imminent

Iowans without health insurance — and those who may be eligible for cheaper coverage — have until Jan. 15 to enroll in federally-subsidized plans.

“What makes this so important is that health insurance is simply vital in America today,” Joseph Palm, a US Department of Health and Human Services regional director, said Tuesday.

“Even when you’re young, you never know when an illness or serious injury will strike. In our healthcare system, health insurance is your ticket that opens doors to quality care that can save your life and protect everything you have,” Palm said. “Without health insurance, a single injury could wipe out a lifetime of savings and impoverish you and your family.”

There have been three notable changes to the Affordable Care Act that could encourage more residents to enroll, and the current enrollment period coincides with a possible end of expanded Iowa Medicaid coverage when the state public health emergency expires.

That emergency declaration – linked to the coronavirus pandemic – could end in January. After that, the Iowa Department of Health and Human Services will reevaluate who is eligible for Medicaid. The emergency statement called on the Iowa Medicaid program to continue coverage for people who might have started making more money during the pandemic, which would have normally excluded them from coverage.

The three notable changes are:

— Family members of a person who has employer-provided insurance are more likely to be eligible for government-subsidized plans. The employer’s family plan must be more than 9.1% of household income to be eligible. Previously, the eligibility threshold was based on the employer’s individual plan costs, which are typically cheaper.

— A fixed income ceiling was abolished. Previously, individuals earning more than approximately $54,000 or families of four earning more than $111,000 were not eligible. Now government grants for higher earners are being cut, but they are still eligible.

— There are additional subsidies for lower-income households that could allow them to pay little or no premiums.

Those wishing to sign up and shop for the federally subsidized plans can go online to healthcare.gov. Those who need assistance with the process can contact Iowa Navigator, a government-funded nonprofit organization that offers free help.

Palm said about 72,000 Iowans purchased health insurance through the federal market last year and saved an average of about $1,200 on their annual premiums.

“Every single one of these people is just relieved to have this affordable insurance coverage, and maybe they wouldn’t have had it otherwise,” said Matt Sinovic, executive director of Progress Iowa.

The upcoming deadlines are December 15 for January coverage to begin and January 15 for February coverage.

— Annmarie Timmins of the New Hampshire Bulletin contributed to this report.

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