Lucy Hodder of Hopkinton is an attorney and the director of Health Law & Policy at UNH Law. She serves on the NHMS Council Dr. Chris Peterson of Derry is a pediatrician at Londonderry Pediatrics and serves on the NHMS Legislative Committee.
Across the country and in New Hampshire, people are missing care and experiencing financial distress from declining health care affordability.
Last year, President Biden signed the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) making many more people eligible for subsidies to purchase health insurance. The dollar amount of premium tax credits has increased so that more people across the country and here in New Hampshire are fully covered when enrolling in a benchmark silver plan.
Many more people than ever before are also eligible for premium tax credits. The health insurance subsidies that have helped thousands of people in New Hampshire and millions across the country access affordable health insurance will expire at the end of 2022, just as we are “unwinding” from the COVID-19 pandemic and people seek much-needed care.
We hope that our federal delegation in the U.S. Senate and the House will prioritize a solution for permanently expanding these tax credits that are so important to Granite Staters. If Congress fails to act, these expanded subsidies expire!
As a result of the American Rescue Plan, health insurance marketplace (healthcare.gov) consumers saw their average monthly premium fall by 23% during the 2022 open enrollment period compared to 2021. A record-breaking 14.5 million people signed up for health coverage across the country, with 52,497 Granite Staters enrolling this year using New Hampshire’s Health Insurance Marketplace Exchange, a 12.5% growth over 2021. These subsidies have served as a lifeline for millions of people across the country, especially during the pandemic as more people found themselves in challenging financial and health-related circumstances.
Health care affordability has been and remains an urgent problem for far too many Americans. According to a 2021 Pew Research survey, a majority of Americans deem this issue a “big problem.” The survey shows that concern about affording health care rose above concern for the national debt and even violent crime.
People are rightfully worried about how they will afford health care for themselves and their families, especially when an unexpected medical expense arises. Making health care, including prescription drugs, more affordable and accessible is identified by communities across New Hampshire as an ongoing and critical need.
Problematically, people are forgoing essential care because costs are too high. According to a survey conducted by West Health and Gallup during September and October of 2021, “Nearly one-third (30%) of Americans skipped needed medical care in the past three months due to cost, the highest reported number since the COVID-19 pandemic began.” Today, no person should have to risk serious or fatal illness because they can’t cover the cost of treating a health issue.
Herein lies the issue. A majority of Americans say that health care affordability is a big problem, and a third of people report choosing not to get treatment because they can’t afford it. Yet, we still don’t have a permanent solution for health care subsidies that would help this same population of people afford life-saving care through health insurance coverage.
The real-world consequences of not solving this problem in Washington means decreased access and quality of care for thousands of New Hampshire residents, and millions more across the country.
The first step forward for our New Hampshire leaders in Congress is to make health insurance subsidies permanent so that thousands of Granite Staters can access affordable health insurance.