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Spanberger Advocates for Provisions to Lower Healthcare Costs in Next Coronavirus Relief Package

Washington, April 6, 2020

HENRICO, V.A. – U.S. Representative Abigail Spanberger is urging U.S. House leadership to prioritize policies in upcoming negotiations that would lower Central Virginians’ healthcare costs as they face healthcare affordability challenges related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In a letter sent to Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), Spanberger and 17 of her freshman colleagues urged the Speaker to include legislative solutions to make healthcare more affordable in the next congressional coronavirus relief package. In the letter, they note that quality, affordable healthcare had been out of reach for many American families—even before the onset of the coronavirus pandemic—and now, as a result of this public health crisis, premiums could spike even higher.

“Lowering the rising costs of health insurance premiums has been a priority for each of us since we were sworn into Congress. In a time of enormous economic uncertainty, the American people deserve greater health and financial security, especially when it comes to health insurance costs,” said Spanberger and her colleagues. “The suffering this pandemic has caused is a tragic reminder of the fundamental importance of health insurance coverage. By including provisions to reduce the skyrocketing cost of health insurance premiums in the next COVID-19 legislative package, we can deliver on a promise to the people: ensuring every American has access to quality, affordable health care.”

In the letter, the Members advocated for policies based on the Health Care Affordability Act (H.R. 1868) and the State Health Care Premium Reduction Act (H.R. 1425), which Spanberger cosponsored.

The Health Care Affordability Act would reduce premiums by hundreds or thousands of dollars for more than 28,000 people in the Seventh District by increasing access to premium subsidies and making existing subsidies more generous.

For example:

  • A typical Virginia family of four making $110,000 would see their premiums fall by $886 per month. That would cut their premium for benchmark marketplace coverage by more than half, from about 18 to 8.5 percent of income.
  • An older couple (both age 60) making $75,000 would see their premiums fall by $1,682 per month. That would cut their premium for benchmark marketplace coverage by more than 70 percent, from 35 to 8.5 percent of income.
  • A family of four making $75,000 would see their premiums fall by $168 per month. That would cut their premium for benchmark coverage by nearly 30 percent, from about 10 to about seven percent of income.

 

Additionally, the State Health Care Premium Reduction Act would reduce premiums for consumers by establishing a reinsurance program to reduce insurers’ risk and dramatically reduce premiums. According to one actuarial analysis, the reinsurance program envisioned by this bill would reduce premiums by about 40 percent. So far, 12 states have set up their own reinsurance programs and caused premiums to fall by as much as 20%.

 

Last month, Spanberger urged U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) Alex Azar to establish a special enrollment period for patients seeking ACA Marketplace coverage as this public health emergency continues. HHS has previously opened federal enrollment periods following disasters such as Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Dorian.

The letter was led by U.S. Representatives Lauren Underwood (D-IL-14) and Angie Craig (D-MN-02). Additionally, the letter was signed by U.S. Representatives Haley Stevens (D-MI-11), Debbie Mucarsel-Powell (D-FL-26), Joe Neguse (D-CO-02), Harley Rouda (D-CA-48), Mike Levin (D-CA-49), David Trone (D-MD-06), Donna E. Shalala (D-FL-27), Katie Porter (D-CA-45), Cindy Axne (D-IA-03), Lizzie Fletcher (D-TX-07), Chris Pappas (D-NH-01), Colin Z. Allred (D-TX-32), TJ Cox (D-CA-21), Lucy McBath (D-GA-06), and Abby Finkenauer (D-IA-01).  

Click here to read the full letter, and the full letter text can be found below.

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Dear Speaker Pelosi,

As Congress negotiates the next economic recovery package in response to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic in the United States, we urge you to address an urgent concern for constituents in our districts and Americans across the country: health care affordability. Lowering the rising costs of health insurance premiums has been a priority for each of us since we were sworn into Congress.

Quality, affordable care was out of reach for too many families even before the onset of this pandemic. Now, as a result of COVID-19, premiums are likely to spike even higher,1 making it essential that a coronavirus relief package includes policies that ensure Americans have access to affordable care. We commend you for including provisions in the Take Responsibility for Workers and Families Act that would extend premium tax credits to more Americans and increase the value of those tax credits for everyone, and provisions to promote reinsurance programs in every state across the country. We urge you to include these policies in the next package of legislation to help the American people recover from the health and economic effects of COVID-19.

Section 104 of the Take Responsibility for Workers and Families Act would increase the size of the premium tax credits for low-income and middle-class Americans. This policy, based on the Health Care Affordability Act (H.R. 1868), would reduce premiums by hundreds or thousands of dollars for more than 10 million current Marketplace consumers. With lower-cost options, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities estimates that as many as 12 million uninsured Americans could enroll in more affordable coverage.

Reinsurance, a policy advanced in the State Health Care Premium Reduction Act (H.R. 1425), represents another opportunity to reduce out-of-pocket costs. By helping to defray insurers’ costs and reduce their risk, reinsurance reduces premiums for consumers. The effectiveness of reinsurance in lowering premiums for enrollees and maintaining insurer participation is proven by evidence from the Affordable Care Act’s transitional reinsurance program,2 existing state-run reinsurance programs,3 and estimates from the Congressional Budget Office.4

 

1 Covered California: The Potential National Health Cost Impacts to Consumers, Employers and Insurers Due to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) 2 Congressional Research Service: The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act's (ACA's) Transitional Reinsurance Program  3 Georgetown University Health Policy Institute: Assessing the Effectiveness of State-Based Reinsurance 4 Congressional Budget Office: H.R. 1425, State Health Care Premium Reduction Act

In a time of enormous economic uncertainty, the American people deserve greater health and financial security, especially when it comes to health insurance costs. The suffering this pandemic has caused is a tragic reminder of the fundamental importance of health insurance coverage. By including provisions to reduce the skyrocketing cost of health insurance premiums in the next COVID-19 legislative package, we can deliver on a promise to the people: ensuring every American has access to quality, affordable health care.

We appreciate your leadership during these difficult times, and we look forward to continuing to work with you to protect lives and livelihoods across the United States.

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