Shaheen Leads Letter to Help Families Afford Health Insurance by Expanding Access to ACA Premium Tax Credits Amid Pandemic

February 09, 2021

(Washington, DC) – U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) led a group of Senators on a letter to expand eligibility for the Affordable Care Act’s premium tax credits in the upcoming COVID-19 relief legislation. In the letter to the Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee and the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Finance, the Senators emphasized that additional financial assistance is crucial to help families afford health insurance amid the deadly COVID-19 pandemic.

“Millions of American families are struggling financially during this pandemic, which makes it difficult for them to enroll in the health insurance coverage that they need. In fact, recent estimates suggest that more than 32 million Americans lack health care coverage,” the Senators wrote.

They continued, “…Providing enhanced financial assistance will be critical in helping more individuals and families enroll in health insurance coverage through the ACA’s Health Insurance Marketplaces during this pandemic, at a time when health insurance coverage is so critical…We urge you to ensure that the budget reconciliation legislation expands eligibility for premium tax credits to individuals who are currently ineligible due to income limits, while also making the premium tax credits more generous for individuals who are already eligible.”

Shaheen was joined on the letter by Senators Jon Tester (D-MT) and Tina Smith (D-MN).

Shaheen has led efforts in the Senate to make health insurance premiums and deductibles more affordable, including through her legislation, the “Improving Health Insurance Affordability Act,” which would enhance the generosity of the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA’s) premium tax credits. She also spearheaded Senate Democrats’ proposal to make health care affordable and accessible for Americans during the COVID-19 public health emergency. She recently reintroduced her legislation to reverse a damaging rule change made by the Trump administration that increased out-of-pocket costs for millions of Americans and made fewer Americans eligible for the ACA’s premium tax credits, while also causing those who are eligible to receive less in tax credit support.

The full text of the letter can be found here and below:

Dear Chairman Neal and Chairman Wyden,

As you work to advance health care and tax-related provisions for inclusion in Fiscal Year (FY) 2021 budget reconciliation legislation for COVID-19 relief, we write to strongly encourage you to provide robust enhancements to the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA’s) premium tax credits. Providing enhanced financial assistance will be critical in helping more individuals and families enroll in health insurance coverage through the ACA’s Health Insurance Marketplaces during this pandemic, at a time when health insurance coverage is so critical.

Millions of American families are struggling financially during this pandemic, which makes it difficult for them to enroll in the health insurance coverage that they need. In fact, recent estimates suggest that more than 32 million Americans lack health care coverage.

We applaud the Biden Administration for re-opening the Health Insurance Marketplaces for a special enrollment period this month. However, in order to maximize coverage, more financial assistance is necessary to help families afford monthly premiums. Ensuring that individuals and families have the financial ability to enroll in and retain coverage must be a top priority in this budget reconciliation package. Access to this health coverage will be vital to making certain that Americans are able to receive the care they need during this ongoing public health crisis.

For these reasons, we urge you to ensure that the final budget reconciliation legislation expands eligibility for premium tax credits to individuals who are currently ineligible due to income limits, while also making the premium tax credits more generous for individuals who are already eligible. This expansion and enhancement of ACA premium tax credits was included in President Biden’s American Rescue Plan proposal and was part of the draft reconciliation legislation that the Ways and Means Committee released yesterday. Similar proposals to improve premium tax credits passed the House last year, and garnered support from both moderate and progressive Democrats in the Senate last Congress. It is essential that Congress follow through on this priority by retaining these premium tax credit improvements in the COVID-19 reconciliation package.

We look forward to working with you to help ensure that Americans have the financial support they need so that they can obtain health care coverage at this critical time. Thank you for your attention to this vital issue.

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