The American Rescue Plan stimulus package just sweetened the deal for the twelve holdout states that haven’t yet expanded Medicaid.In exchange for expanding eligibility to the roughly four million adults with incomes up to 133 percent of the federal poverty level, new expansion states will also be eligible for afive percent increase in the federal matching rate for their entire traditional Medicaid population for a two-year period.
The graphic above shows the cumulative fiscal impact for holdout states, should all Medicaid-eligible individuals enroll. Since the traditional Medicaid population is so much larger than the expansion population, the temporary increase more than offsets states’ cost to cover their share of the expansion, resulting in an estimated net fiscal benefit of almost $10B. While the net benefit would vary from state to state, a Kaiser Family Foundation analysis found the two most populous non-expansion states, Texas and Florida, could net up to $1.9B and $1.8B respectively across the two-year period.
Medicaid expansion has had a significant positive financial impact on hospitals, reducing uncompensated care and increasing overall operating margin by an average of 1.7 percent.
A recent analysis by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities founduncompensated care costs as a share of hospital expenses fell an average of 45 percent in Medicaid expansion statesbetween 2013 and 2017. So far, only two states eligible for the enhanced expansion, Alabama and Wyoming, have signaled interest in taking advantage of the new deal. Convincing the remaining ten to follow suit will require intense and coordinated advocacy efforts from the healthcare and business communities. Making the financial case for expansion should prove straightforward, compared to overcoming long-entrenched political opposition.
The Democratic bill has $410 billion in stimulus checks and $360 billion in aid to state and local governments.
Expanded unemployment benefits cost $242 billion.
School spending is nearly $170 billion spread out over 10 years.
There are a few big chunks of money in the American Rescue Plan Act that have generated a lot of news coverage and are pretty well known. In response to a reader’s request, we present the whopping $1.86 trillion spending plan in pie chart form.
There are the $1,400 checks (or more likely deposits) to many citizens or permanent legal residents and their dependents. That comes to about $410 billion.
Aid to state, local, territorial and tribal governments costs about $360 billion.
The bill boosts and extends unemployment benefits. Add another $242 billion.
Over the next 10 years, the law spends nearly $170 billion on education. That includes $129 billion for K-12 schools — both public and private — and about $40 billion for higher education.
The money for vaccines and corralling the coronavirus became a political talking point. Democrats touted the $20-25 billion they included for vaccine supplies and research. Republicans argued that the bill spent less than 10% of its total cost on COVID-19.
People will parse the numbers in different ways. Some only count money spent directly on vaccine production. Some look more broadly at the economic damage wrought by the virus. We looked for money that went towards health care, whether that meant improving treatment on tribal lands, adding health care workers at clinics, or anything that reduced the health impacts of the pandemic.
We put the bill’s total public health spending at $143 billion.
Within that, the single biggest line item is $47.8 billion for mitigating the disease, a broad description that includes testing and surveillance. There is also $15 billion for COVID-related health care for veterans, $7.6 billion to help community health centers distribute vaccines, and about the same amount to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for roughly the same purpose.
The chart above lays out how the money breaks down.
All of the amounts so far come to $1.3 trillion over 10 years.The bill’s total cost is $1.86 trillion, which leaves about $500 billion dollars to flesh out.
The law has over $40 billion for child care. Money to keep people in their homes and to house the homeless comes to about $44 billion. There is $10 billion to put food on people’s tables. The expected cost of temporarily boosting the child tax credit is $109 billion.
In our chart, we fold all of that, plus subsidies for pensions and health insurance premiums, into the category of support for families. Our total is $352 billion.
Our last distinct category is transportation. Under that umbrella, we put $30 billion for mass transit, $15 billion for the airline industry, $8 billion for airports, and other related activities. That came to $58 billion.
The catch-all bucket of other spending includes items such as $66 billion for businesses, $50 billion for disaster relief at the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and $7 billion to expand broadband internet.
On Thursday, President Biden signed the American Rescue Plan (ARP) Act of 2021 into law, committing nearly$1.9T of federal spending to boost the nation’s recovery from the coronavirus pandemic. In addition to direct payments to American families, extension of unemployment benefits, several anti-poverty measures, and aid to state and local governments, the plan also contains several key healthcare measures.
Approved by Congress on a near party-line vote using the budget reconciliation process, the law includes thebroadest expansion of the 2010 Affordable Care Act (ACA) to date. It extends subsidies for upper-middle income individuals to purchase coverage on the Obamacare exchanges, caps premiumsfor those higher earners at a substantially lower level, and boosts subsidies for those at the lower end of the income scale.
The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates that expanded ACA subsidies in the ARPwill result in 2.5M more Americans gaining coverage in the next two years. Fully subsidized COBRA coverage for workers who lost their jobs due to COVID is also extended through the end of September, which the CBO estimates will benefit an additional 2M unemployed Americans.
The ARP also puts in place new support for Medicaid, enhancing coverage for home-based care, maternity services, and COVID testing and vaccination, and providing new incentives for the 12 states which haven’t yet expanded Medicaid eligibility under the ACA to do so. In addition to the ACA’s 90 percent match for those states’ Medicaid expansion populations, the lucky dozen will also receive a 5 percent bump to federal matching for the rest of their Medicaid populations should they choose to expand.
Three policy changes of keen interest to providers were left out of the final version of the bill. First, while a special relief fund of $8.5B was created for rural providers, there was no additional allocation of relief funds for hospitals and other providers, similar to the $178B allocated by the CARES Act, despite initial proposals of up to $35B in additional funding. (Around $25B of the initial round of provider relief is still unspent.) Second, the ARPdid not extend or alter the repayment schedule for advance payments to providers made last year, in spite of industry pressure to implement more favorable repayment conditions. Finally, the new law does not extend last year’s pause on sequester-related cuts to Medicare reimbursement, although the House is expected to consider a separate measure to address that issue next week.
Notably, the coverage-related provisions of the ARP are only temporary, lasting through September of next year. That sets up the 2022 midterm elections as yet another campaign cycle dominated by promises to uphold and protect the Affordable Care Act—by then a 12-year-old law bolstered by this week’s COVID recovery legislation.
The House on Wednesday passed the mammoth $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package, which President Biden is expected to sign Friday.
The House approved the relief package in a starkly partisan 220-211 vote, sending the legislation to the White House and clinching Democrats’ first big legislative victory in the Biden era. No Republicans voted for the package and all but one House Democrat—Rep. Jared Golden of Maine—supported it. The Hill’s Cristina Marcos has more here.
The political split: Unlike the previous relief measures enacted last year, Democrats barely bothered to negotiate with Republicans and pushed the relief package through Congress along party lines using the budget reconciliation process. That allowed them to go as big as they wanted to go without running into a Senate GOP filibuster.
Republicans argue the use of a process dodging the filibuster shows Biden wasn’t serious about bringing unity, and House GOP lawmakers on Wednesday warned of the bill’s total cost.
But Democrats think Republicans will pay for their opposition to the popular bill and argued that they would oppose anything Biden proposed.
What’s in the $1.9T COVID-19 relief package: Along with $1,400 direct payments to households, an extension of expanded unemployment benefits, and aid for state and local governments, the package is loaded with other provisions intended to speed up the recovery from the recession and help struggling families fight the impact of COVID-19.
Tax credits: The bill increases the child tax credit for households below certain income thresholds for 2021 and makes it fully refundable, and also expands the earned income tax credit for the year.
Child care: $15 billion for grants to help low-income families afford child care and increases the child and dependent care tax credit for one year.
Pensions: $86 billion to bailout struggling union pension funds.
Transportation: $30 billion to bolster local subway and bus systems, $8 billion for airports, $1.5 billion for furloughed Amtrak workers, and $3 billion for wages at aerospace companies.
Housing: $27.4 billion in emergency rental assistance, another $10 billion to help homeowners avoid foreclosure, $5 billion in vouchers for public housing, $5 billion to tackle homelessness and $5 billion more to help households cover utility bills.
Small businesses: The American Rescue Plan broadens eligibility guidelines for the Paycheck Protection Program, allowing more nonprofit entities to be eligible, adds $15 billion in emergency grants and also sets aside more than $28 billion in funding for restaurants.
ObamaCare subsidies and Medicaid expansion: The bill increases ObamaCare subsidies through 2022 to make them more generous, a longtime goal for Democrats, and opens up more fully subsidized plans to individuals. It also would provide extra Medicaid funding to states that expand the program and have yet to do so.
The Affordable Care Act (ACA) made historic strides in expanding access to health insurance coverage by covering an additional 20 million Americans.President Joe Biden ran on a platform of building upon the ACA and filling in its gaps. With Democratic majority in the Senate, aspects of his health care plan could move from idea into reality.
The administration’s main focus is on uninsurance, which President Biden proposes to tackle in three main ways: providing an accessible and affordable public option, increasing tax credits to help lower monthly premiums, and indexing marketplace tax credits to gold rather than silver plans.
However, underinsurance remains a problem. Besides the nearly 29 million remaining uninsured Americans, over 40% of working age adults are underinsured, meaning their out-of-pocket cost-sharing, excluding premiums, are 5-10% of household income or more, depending on income level.
High cost-sharing obligations—especially high deductibles—means insurance might provide little financial protection against medical costs beneath the deductible. Bills for several thousand dollars could financially devastate a family, with the insurer owing nothing at all. Recent trends in health insurance enrollment suggest that uninsurance should not be the only issue to address.
A high demand for low premiums
Enrollment in high deductible health plans (HDHP) has been on a meteoric rise over the past 15 years, from approximately 4% of people with employer-sponsored insurance in 2006 to nearly 30% in 2019, leading to growing concern about underinsurance. “Qualified” HDHPs, which come with additional tax benefits, generally have lower monthly premiums, but high minimum deductibles. As of 2020, the Internal Revenue Service defines HDHPs as plans with minimum deductibles of at least $1,400 for an individual ($2,800 for families), although average annual deductibles are $2,583 for an individual ($5,335 for families).
A common prescription has been to expand access to Health Savings Accounts (HSAs), with employer and individual contributions offsetting higher upfront cost-sharing. Employers often contribute on behalf of their employees to HSAs, but for individuals in lower wage jobs without such benefits or without extra income to contribute themselves, the account itself may sit empty, rendering it useless.
A recent article in Health Affairs found that HDHP enrollment increased from 2007 to 2018 across all racial, ethnic, and income groups, but also revealed that low-income, Black, and Hispanic enrollees were significantly less likely to have an HSA, with disparities growing over time. For instance, by 2018, they found that among HDHP enrollees under 200% of the federal poverty level (FPL), only 21% had an HSA, while 52% of those over 400% FPL had an HSA. In short, the people who could most likely benefit from an HSA were also least likely to have one.
If trends in HDHP enrollment and HSA access continue, it could result in even more Americans who are covered on paper, yet potentially unable to afford care.
Addressing uninsurance could also begin to address underinsurance
President Biden’s health care proposal primarily addresses uninsurance by making it more affordable and accessible. This can also tangentially tackle underinsurance.
To make individual market insurance more affordable, Biden proposes expanding the tax credits established under the ACA. His plan calls for removing the 400% FPL cap on financial assistance in the marketplaces and lowering the limit on health insurance premiums to 8.5% of income. Americans would now be able to opt out of their employer plan if there is a better deal on HealthCare.gov or their state Marketplace. Previously, most individuals who had an offer of employer coverage were ineligible for premium subsidies—important for individuals whose only option might have been an employer-sponsored HDHP.
Biden also proposes to index the tax credits that subsidize premiums to gold plans, rather than silver plans as currently done.This would increase the size of these tax credits, making it easier for Americans to afford more generous plans with lower deductibles and out-of-pocket costs, substantially reducing underinsurance.
The most ambitious of Biden’s proposed health policies is a public option, which would create a Medicare-esque offering on marketplaces, available to anyone. As conceived in Biden’s proposal, such a plan would eliminate premiums and having minimal-to-no cost-sharing for low-income enrollees; especially meaningful for under- and uninsured people in states yet to expand Medicaid.
Moving forward: A need to directly address underinsurance
More extensive efforts are necessary to meaningfully address underinsurance and related inequities. For instance, the majority of persons with HDHPs receive coverage through an employer, where the employer shares in paying premiums, yet cost-sharing does not adjust with income as it can in the marketplace. Possible solutions range from employer incentives to expanding the scope of deductible-exempt services, which could also address some of the underlying disparities that affect access to and use of health care.
The burden of high cost-sharing often falls on those who cannot afford it, while benefiting employers, healthy employees, or those who can afford large deductibles. Instead of encouraging HSAs, offering greater pre-tax incentives that encourage employers to reabsorb some of the costs that they have shifted on their lower-income employees could prevent the income inequity gap from widening further.
Under the ACA, most health insurance plans are required to cover certain preventative services without patient cost-sharing. Many health plans also exempt other types of services from the deductible – from generic drugs to certain types of specialist visits – although these exemptions vary widely across plans. Expanding deductible-exempt services to include follow-up care or other high-value services could improve access to important services or even medication adherence without high patient cost burden. Better educating employees about what services are exempt would make sure that patients aren’t forgoing care that should be fully covered.
Health insurance is complicated. Choosing a plan is only the start. More affordable choices are helpful only if these choices are fully understood, e.g., the tradeoff between an HDHP’s lower monthly premium and the large upfront out-of-pocket cost when using care. Investing in well-trained, diverse navigators to help people understand how their options work with their budget and health care needs can make a big difference, given that low health insurance literacy is related to higher avoidance of care.
The ACA helped expand coverage, but now it’s time to make sure the coverage provided is more than an unused insurance card. The Biden administration has the opportunity and responsibility to make progress not only on reducing the uninsured rate, but also in reducing disparities in access and patient affordability.
President Joe Biden has an unexpected opening to cut deals with red states to expand Medicaid, raising the prospect that the new administration could extend health protections to millions of uninsured Americans and reach a goal that has eluded Democrats for a decade.
The opportunity emerges as the covid-19 pandemic saps state budgets and strains safety nets. That may help break the Medicaid deadlock in some of the 12 states that have rejected federal funding made available by the Affordable Care Act, health officials, patient advocates and political observers say.
Any breakthrough will require a delicate political balancing act. New Medicaid compromises could leave some states with safety-net programs that, while covering more people, don’t insure as many as Democrats would like. Any expansion deals would also need to allow Republican state officials to tell their constituents they didn’t simply accept the 2010 health law, often called Obamacare.
“Getting all the remaining states to embrace the Medicaid expansion is not going to happen overnight,” said Matt Salo, executive director of the nonpartisan National Association of Medicaid Directors. “But there are significant opportunities for the Biden administration to meet many of them halfway.”
Key to these potential compromises will likely be federal signoff on conservative versions of Medicaid expansion, such as limits on who qualifies for the program or more federal funding, which congressional Democrats have proposed in the latest covid relief bill.
But any deals would bring the country closer to fulfilling the promise of the 2010 law, a pillar of Biden’s agenda, and begin to reverse Trump administration efforts to weaken public programs, which swelled the ranks of the uninsured.
“A new administration with a focus on coverage can make a difference in how these states proceed,” said Cindy Mann, who oversaw Medicaid in the Obama administration and now consults extensively with states at the law firm Manatt, Phelps & Phillips.
Medicaid, the half-century-old health insurance program for the poor and people with disabilities, and the related Children’s Health Insurance Program cover more than 70 million Americans, including nearly half the nation’s children.
Enrollment surged following enactment of the health law, which provides hundreds of billions of dollars to states to expand eligibility to low-income, working-age adults.
However, enlarging the government safety net has long been anathema to most Republicans, many of whom fear that federal programs will inevitably impose higher costs on states.
And although the GOP’s decade-long campaign to “repeal and replace” the health law has largely collapsed, hostility toward it remains high among Republican voters.
That makes it perilous for politicians to embrace any part of it, said Republican pollster Bill McInturff, a partner at Public Opinion Strategies. “A lot of Republican state legislators are sitting in core red districts, looking over their shoulders at a primary challenge,” he said.
Many conservatives have called instead for federal Medicaid block grants that cap how much federal money goes to states in exchange for giving states more leeway to decide whom they cover and what benefits their programs offer.
Many Democrats and patient advocates fear block grants will restrict access to care. But just before leaving office, the Trump administration gave Tennessee permission to experiment with such an approach.
“It’s a frustrating place to be,” said Tom Banning, the longtime head of the Texas Academy of Family Physicians, which has labored to persuade the state’s Republican leaders to drop their opposition to expanding Medicaid.“Despite covid and despite all the attention on health and disparities, we see almost no movement on this issue.”
Some 1.5 million low-income Texans are shut out of Medicaid because the state has resisted expansion, according to estimates by KFF. (KHN is an editorially independent program of KFF.)
An additional 800,000 people are locked out in Florida, which has also blocked expansion.
Two million more are caught in the 10 remaining holdouts: Alabama, Georgia, Kansas, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Wisconsin and Wyoming.
Advocates of Medicaid expansion, which is broadly popular with voters, believe they may be able to break through in a handful of these states that allow ballot initiatives, including Mississippi and South Dakota.
Since 2018, voters in Idaho, Nebraska, Utah, Oklahoma and Missouri have backed initiatives to expand Medicaid eligibility, effectively circumventing Republican political leaders.
“The work that we’ve done around the country shows that no matter where people live — red state or blue state — there is overwhelming support for expanding access to health care,” said Kelly Hall, policy director of the Fairness Project, a nonprofit advocacy group that has helped organize the Medicaid measures.
But most of the holdout states, including Texas, don’t allow citizens to put initiatives on the ballot without legislative approval.
And although Florida has an initiative process, mounting a ballot campaign there is challenging, as political advertising is expensive. Unlike in many states, Florida’s leading hospital association hasn’t backed expansion.
Another route for expansion: compromises that could win over skeptical Republican state leaders and still get the green light from the Biden administration.
The Obama administration approved conservative Medicaid expansion in Arkansas, which funneled enrollees into the commercial insurance market, and in Indiana, which forced enrollees to pay more for their medical care.
Money is a major focus of current talks in several states, according to health officials, advocates and others involved in efforts across the country.
The health law at first fully funded Medicaid expansion with federal money, but after the first three years, states had to begin paying part of the tab. Now, states must come up with 10% of the cost of expansion.
Even that small share is a challenge for states, many of which are reeling from the economic downturn caused by the pandemic, said David Becker, a health economist at the University of Alabama-Birmingham who has assisted efforts to expand Medicaid in that state.
“The question is: Where do we get the money?” Becker said, noting that some Republicans may be open to expanding Medicaid if the federal government pays the full cost of the expansion, at least for a year or two.
Other efforts to find ways to offset state costs are underway in Kansas and North Carolina, which have Democratic governors whose expansion plans have been blocked by Republican state legislators. Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly this month proposed using money from the sale and taxation of medical marijuana.
Some Democrats in Congress are pushing to revise the health law to provide full federal funding to states that expand Medicaid now. Separately, in the stimulus bill unveiled last week, House Democrats proposed an additional boost in total Medicaid aid to states that expand.
Other Republicans have signaled interest in partly expanding Medicaid, opening the program to people making up to 100% of the federal poverty level, or about $12,900, rather than 138%, or $17,800, as the law stipulated.
The Obama administration rejected this approach, but the idea has gained traction in several states, including Georgia.
It’s unclear what kind of compromises the new administration may consider, as Biden has yet to even nominate someone to oversee the Medicaid program.
Some Democrats say it’s time to give up the search for middle ground with Republicans on Medicaid.
A better strategy, they say, is a new government insurance plan, or public option, for people in non-expansion states, a strategy Biden endorsed on the campaign trail.
“Democrats can no longer countenance millions of Americans living in poverty without insurance,” said Chris Jennings, a Democratic health care strategist who worked in the White House under Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama and served on Biden’s transition team.
“This is why the Biden public option or other new ways to secure affordable, meaningful care should become the order of the day for people living in states like Florida and Texas.”
Young adults were among the most likely to be uninsured prior to the Affordable Care Act, but the law’s Medicaid expansion had a significant impact on those rates, according to a new study.
Research published by Urban Institute, this week shows the uninsured rate for people aged 19 to 25 declined from 30% to 16% between 2011 and 2018, while Medicaid enrollment for this population increased from 11% to 15% in that window.
The coverage increases were felt most keenly between 2013 and 2016, when many of the ACA’s key tenets were carried out, including Medicaid expansion and the launch of the exchanges, according to the study.
“Before the ACA, adolescents in low-income households often aged out of eligibility for public health insurance coverage through Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program as they entered adulthood,” the researchers wrote. “Further, young adults’ employment patterns made them less likely than older adults to have an offer of employer-sponsored insurance coverage.”
States that expanded Medicaid saw greater declines in the number of young people without insurance, the study found.
On average, the uninsured rates among young people declined from nearly 28% in 2011 to 11% in 2018, according to the analysis. In non-expansion states, however, the uninsured rate decreased from about 33% to nearly 21%.
In expansion states, Medicaid enrollment for people aged 19 to 25 rose from 12% in 2011 to close to 21%, according to the study, while enrollment in non-expansion states remained flat.
Urban’s researchers estimate that Medicaid expansion is linked to a 3.6 percent point decline in uninsurance among young people overall, and had the highest impact on young Hispanic people. Uninsurance decreased by 6 percentage points among Hispanic young people, the study found, and that population had the largest uninsured rate prior to the ACA.
“The effects of Medicaid expansion on young adults’ health insurance coverage and health care access provide evidence of the initial pathways through which Medicaid expansions could improve young adults’ overall health and trajectories of health throughout adulthood,” the researchers wrote.
“Beyond coverage and access to preventive care, Medicaid expansion may affect young adults’ health care use in ways not examined in our report. Thus, ensuring young adults have health insurance coverage and access to affordable care is a critical first step toward long-term health,” they wrote.
Starting next week, millions of uninsured Americans will have the opportunity to sign up for coverage on the federal insurance marketplace, the result of President Biden’s executive order to create a 90-day special enrollment period. The graphic above highlights the potential impact of this enrollment period on the uninsured population.
According to a Kaiser Family Foundation analysis, of the nearly 15M uninsured who are marketplace-eligible,nearly 9M qualify for free or subsidized coverage. Enrollment of these individuals will come with added challenges, as they tend to be less educated, younger, more rural, and less likely to speak English, as compared to the general population. An Urban Institute survey foundalmost half of uninsured individuals are unfamiliar with marketplace coverage options, and nearly two-thirds lack an understanding of available financial assistance.
The federal government is dedicating $50M to advertise the special enrollment period, to assist with outreach and education. Given the population most likely to have lost insurance due to the COVID pandemic, this funding will be critical to making sure eligible people take advantage or free or low-cost coverage.