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This COVID-19 relief package may make your health coverage more affordable

The American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) — also known as the COVID-19 relief package — offered relief to Americans through assistance like stimulus checks, tax credits and unemployment compensation. 

But the ARPA also includes options to make health insurance more affordable to millions of Americans, including those who experienced job loss or financial hardship because of the pandemic. 

If you’re looking for individual market coverage and are already enrolled in coverage through the health insurance marketplace (for Pennsylvanians, that’s Pennie™), here’s how the ARPA can help you save money on insurance.

Health insurance and the American Rescue Plan Act

The ARPA includes provisions specific to the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and is the largest health insurance coverage expansion since the ACA passed in 2010.

Through ARPA, those earning more than the current cap of 400% of the federal poverty level in 2021 will be newly eligible for an Advance Premium Tax Credit (APTC). 

For example, 400% of the poverty level is about:

$51,000 annual income for an individual
$104,800 annual income for a family of four 

Before the ARPA, the ACA’s “subsidy cliff” — or cap of the federal poverty level — made those earning more than 400% of the poverty level ineligible for the tax credit. 

You can use the APTC tax credit in advance to lower your monthly health insurance payment, rather than having to wait for a credit on your income taxes.

In some cases, lower-income enrollees could have their premiums eliminated completely.

ARPA’s new regulations and the financial aid available have led to extending the COVID-19 Special Enrollment Period (SEP) for health insurance until Aug. 15, 2021 — which means you have more time to find or change to health coverage that fits your budget.

What if I was unemployed in 2021?

If you received unemployment compensation in 2021, ARPA includes benefits that mean you won’t have to worry about finding affordable health insurance this year.

Let’s use someone who lives in Pennsylvania, which is Geisinger’s home base, as an example:
Middle-aged woman accessing myGeisinger on a laptop in her home.

If you lived in Pennsylvania and were eligible for unemployment income in 2021, you’ll be eligible for coverage through the Pennie health insurance marketplace with a $0 premium for the remainder of the year. And you can apply for this benefit through Sept. 6, 2021.

While all unemployment income should be reported to the Marketplace, the federal pandemic unemployment compensation’s (FPUC) allotment of $300 per week is not countable when determining eligibility for Medicaid and CHIP. The Marketplace will continue to deduct this amount when calculating current monthly income for Medicaid and CHIP eligibility.

How does ARPA affect existing Marketplace members?

Most people who have Marketplace insurance will receive additional financial assistance each month, including people who will now become eligible for these Advance Premium Tax Credits.
Using Pennsylvania as an example again, when someone is eligible for health insurance savings, Pennie will reach out to let them know they’ll start seeing a decrease in their monthly premium payments. Pennie will also reach out to those who are newly eligible for financial assistance.

Additional things to remember

While ARPA means that many Americans can benefit from health insurance savings, keep in mind:
  • Adjusted subsidy eligibility rules for unemployment compensation are only for 2021.
  • The enhanced tax credits and elimination of the subsidy cliff are only for 2021 and 2022.
Want to see what you can save? Pennie’s savings calculator can help you learn if you qualify to save.
And if you’re looking for an individual, affordable health insurance plan, or want to know if you qualify for a tax credit or subsidies, Geisinger Health Plan’s advisors can help. Call a Geisinger Health Plan representative today at 800-918-5154.

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