February 29, 2024 1:12 pm

Local News

Expansion of Health Care for Michiganders

Credit: iStock

Armand Jackson

According to data from the Kaiser Family Foundation, back in 2018, 29 percent of adults ages 18 to 64 in Michigan had a pre-existing health condition that would have caused them to be denied health coverage if the Affordable Care Act (ACA) did not exist. The Affordable Care Act offers subsidies to offset the cost of health insurance by capping how much people pay at a certain percent of their income. In short, people are able to pay less for their health care. The American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) enhanced said subsidies for lower-income people and expanded eligibility for uninsured people who had previously been priced out because their incomes did not qualify them for an ACA subsidy. Despite this, many residents of Michigan still struggle with the increased cost of paying for health insurance, prescription drugs, and insulin.

Governor Gretchen Whitmer along with 13 other governors sent a letter to Congress back in late June urging them to lower health care costs. In a press release she states: “Right now, working families in Michigan and across the country are facing rising costs on groceries, gas, and other everyday expenses.” There has been concern that if the ARPA subsidies expired later this year, many people would have to pay full price for insurance coverage. The effects would vary depending on state of residency but one example provided by KFF is, a 60-year-old making just above four times the national poverty rate in 2022 would pay more than a third of their income on a silver plan without the ARPA in West Virginia and Wyoming. 

A July 15-17 Morning Consult/Politico survey found that the majority of voters across the political spectrum support the renewal of Affordable Care Act subsidies with 71 percent of voters stating that it was important to extend the ACA subsidies to address health care costs for plan participants. The Inflation Reduction Act of 2022, having passed the U.S. Senate on August 7th, seems to be the solution to address these concerns. The Democratic bill, which carries many aspects of The Build Back Better Act, passed the Senate having no Republican support with a 51-50 vote along party lines. And it passed the U.S. House of Representatives on August 12th, having no Republican support as well with a 220-207 vote. For health insurance costs, the bill would extend the ARPA subsidies provided during the pandemic for three more years. The bill also helps those Americans who buy their own health insurance policies by lowering insurance premiums. 

The Inflation Reduction Act also ensures; seniors and patients in general on Medicare have insulin prices capped at $35 a dose; Medicare negotiate prescription drug prices; caps on Medicare beneficiaries’ out-of-pocket costs at $2,000 per year; allows patients to spread their costs over monthly payments; provide more assistance for low-income seniors on Medicare as well as provide free Medicare coverage of all vaccines; and penalize drug companies for price hikes in Medicare that exceed the rate of inflation by requiring drug companies to pay the Medicare program for excess increases. Unfortunately, those who have private insurance will not see insulin prices capped at $35 a dose due to not having enough Republican support in the Senate.

Another Morning Consult/Politico survey conducted between July 8-10 showed that allowing Medicare to negotiate prescription drug prices is supported by 76 percent of voters across the political aisle, plans to place caps on prescription drug price increases is supported at 79 percent, and limiting out-of-pocket prescription drug costs for Medicare beneficiaries to $2,000 annually is supported by 71 percent. It also seems the Democrats’ plan to extend Medicare’s solvency has the support of 67 percent of voters as well. Recent polling from Data for Progress and Climate Power also shows that the majority of voters across the political spectrum support the Inflation Reduction Act as well.