BATON ROUGE. – Changes in the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (COVID-19 relief bill) could make it easier for more Louisianians to find affordable healthcare coverage. The changes in this Congressional package took effect April 1.
Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana encourages anyone who is uninsured or who recently lost insurance coverage through a job to check out their options.
“The changes under the American Rescue Plan Act can make coverage a lot more affordable for you than it’s ever been,” said Blue Cross Health Economist Mike Bertaut. “I’d really encourage everyone not getting an offer of coverage through their employer to create a healthcare.gov account or update your healthcare.gov account after April 1 to see what’s available to you. There are more lower-cost options than ever before.”
The federal government announced earlier this year it was reopening healthcare.gov for a Special Enrollment Period. Last week, the Biden Administration extended enrollment through Aug. 15. The enrollment period is open to anyone who doesn’t get health insurance through a job and wants to get covered.
“This Congressional package includes $39 billion that must be spent on healthcare directly, under the authority of the Affordable Care Act, ”Bertaut said. “That’s really good news for anyone who needs to purchase individual health insurance or is facing a furlough or layoff at work. But, every change included in this package is only good for two fiscal years. Act quickly to take advantage of it.”
Healthcare.Gov Changes Starting April 1
Lower premiums for people at all income levels. Since healthcare.gov began, people qualified for financial assistance if they earned between 139 and 400 percent of the Federal Poverty Level. The relief package changes the qualification for premium assistance. Now, an individual health plan cannot cost more than 8.5 percent of income — no matter how much money someone makes. “This could, for example, allow a person making $100,000 a year to still get federal assistance to pay for healthcare coverage,” Bertaut said.
No-cost healthcare.gov benchmark Silver plan is a new unemployment benefit. Anyone who has lost a job can get a second-lowest, Silver-level individual healthcare.gov plan for $0 premium. “We’re still waiting on the details of how people can apply for and get this benefit, which is expected to begin in July 2021,” Bertaut said. “But with nearly 300,000 Louisianians being unemployed at some point in the past year, it’s very good news. You do not want to be without health insurance amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.”
The first $10,000 of unemployment insurance payments you got during 2020 are eliminated from your 2020 income for tax purposes. “This means when you file your 2020 taxes, that unemployment benefit will not count against you when computing your income tax,” Bertaut said.
How to Shop for Plans on Healthcare.Gov
To create a www.healthcare.gov account, you’ll need to enter basic information like:
• Legal name
• Phone number
• Email address
• Social Security number
The site will ask you to estimate your income for 2021. You’ll have to answer questions about whether or not you’ve used tobacco. The site will not ask you to enter any health history information or details about current health conditions you have. Using the information on your income and tobacco use, healthcare.gov will let you know if you qualify for financial assistance to help you pay for your health plan. Starting April 1, financial assistance will be based on your total income, not Federal Poverty Level income ranges.
Need help checking into your options? Visit www.GetPlanOptions.com or call 1-844-GET-BLUE to speak with a Blue Cross agent. Licensed agents can guide you through the different plan types available and what could best fit your needs and budget. It doesn’t cost you anything to work with an agent. There is no obligation to enroll in a health plan because you talked to an agent.
Based on your income information, healthcare.gov will alert you if you’re eligible for Louisiana’s Medicaid program. Medicaid is no-cost healthcare coverage, with no deductibles or copays. You can visit medicaid.la.gov to see if you qualify, too.
People turning 65 and those 65 or older who lost employer coverage through job loss or retirement may be able to sign up for Medicare plans. Circumstances like moving to another state or moving into or out of a long-term care facility can trigger Medicare Special Enrollment Periods, too. Visit www.medicare.gov for more information.
Bertaut recently wrote a post for Straight Talk, Blue Cross’ multimedia blog, about changes in the American Rescue Plan Act that make healthcare coverage more affordable. For more information about this and other healthcare topics, visit www.straighttalkla.com. The Straight Talk blog is typically updated weekly. The site includes a link to sign up for the Straight Talk e-newsletter.
You can visit the Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana YouTube channel to see short videos on various health topics. Subscribe to know when new videos are added. You can also connect with Blue Cross on social media for regular updates.