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Health

COVID-19 Relief Bill Will Make Health Insurance More Affordable

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Louis Velasquez
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The U.S. Capitol is seen in a file photo.

The COVID-19 relief bill will reduce health care costs and incentivize states like North Carolina to expand Medicaid coverage.

The legislation caps premiums for Obamacare coverage at 8.5% of an enrollee’s income, a promise President Biden made during his campaign. The current cap for those earning up to 400% of poverty is 9.8%, and there’s no limit for those earning more.

The bill also increases subsidies, so many people earning less than 400% of poverty — $106,000 for a family of four — would spend less than they have been.

U.S. Rep. David Price, D.-N.C., said "everybody in North Carolina who has (Affordable Care Act) coverage has reason to pay attention to this because the potential benefits will be much greater. People will be able to access the ACA if they lose their jobs. There’s a lot of widespread benefits.”

Those who become unemployed will receive additional federal help to stay on their insurance. And others who get unemployment benefits but who don’t have health insurance can get Obamacare even if they hadn’t previously qualified for subsidies. That could help some people in states that haven’t expanded Medicaid, like North Carolina, and who didn’t have insurance as a result.

The COVID-19 relief bill creates an incentive for states like North Carolina to now expand their Medicaid programs to cover people making up to 138% of the poverty level. It would increase the federal share of North Carolina’s non-expansion Medicaid spending by 5 percentage points for two years after expansion. The left-leaning think tank Center for Budget and Policy Priorities estimates this would result in an additional $2.4 billion for North Carolina.

"Given our state’s ill-advised decision not to expand Medicaid, this makes the deal even sweeter and makes it just a slam dunk decision to expand," Price said.

A spokesperson for Republican North Carolina Senate leader Phil Berger declined to comment on the incentive in the draft bill, saying he needs more time to study the impact of the proposed changes.

All the health care provisions in the COVID-19 relief bill will expire in two years in order to keep the price tag of the entire bill within $1.9 trillion.

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