Senators Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker on Wednesday introduced legislation to rescue Americans with Affordable Care Act subsidies who have zero options for health insurance on the exchanges for the 2018 plan year.
“There are 34,000 Knoxville area residents who rely on an Affordable Care Act subsidy to purchase insurance, and after the one remaining insurer pulled out of the exchange for 2018, these subsidies are worth as much as bus tickets in a town with no buses running,” Senator Alexander said. “There is also a real prospect that all 230,000 Tennesseans who buy insurance on the exchange—approximately 195,000 with a subsidy—won’t have any plans to buy next year either, and millions of Americans in other states are facing the same dire circumstances.”
He continued, “This legislation would help those in Knoxville and across the country by allowing any American who receives a subsidy and has no insurance available on their exchange next year to use that subsidy to buy any state-approved insurance off of the exchange. Second, the bill would waive the Affordable Care Act requirement that these Americans, who have zero insurance options with their subsides, have to pay a penalty for not purchasing insurance. And third, this legislation will help bring peace of mind between now and the beginning of next year to millions of Americans, some of the most vulnerable people in the country, who face having zero options of health insurance to purchase with their subsidy.”
“At some point, on behalf of the American people, Congress and the administration have to resolve the issues that are driving up health care costs, limiting choices, and causing the exchange market to spiral downward,” Senator Corker said. “However, in the interim, we must take steps to ensure people in places like Knoxville, where more than 34,000 individuals receiving subsidies under current law will have zero options in 2018, have the opportunity to purchase health insurance off the exchange in the individual market.”
Specifically, the Health Care Options Act of 2017:
- Will allow Americans who live in counties in which there are no health insurance options on the Affordable Care Act exchange to use their subsidy to purchase any health insurance plan outside of the exchanges, as long as the insurance is approved by the state for sale in the individual market. That means Americans on the exchanges will have options to purchase insurance where the Affordable Care Act has left them with none. This option would be given to individuals who live in a county where the Secretary of Health and Human Services certifies there are no options on the ACA exchange.
- When the HHS Secretary certifies that there are zero insurance options on the exchange, the legislation will waive the Affordable Care Act’s requirement to buy a specific health care plan or pay a fine. The law’s individual mandate penalty will not apply to these individuals.
- The legislation’s temporary authority would only be in place through the end of the 2019 plan year.
A full summary of the Health Care Options Act of 2017 is available HERE.