Bennet, Democratic Senators Lead Effort to Ensure Maximum Financial Assistance for Those Enrolled in ACA Exchange Plans

Washington, D.C. – Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet and U.S. Senators Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), and Ed Markey (D-Mass.) introduced legislation to enable individuals collecting enhanced federal unemployment compensation to receive maximum financial assistance when enrolled in Affordable Care Act (ACA) marketplace plans.

The bill would also temporarily eliminate the repayment burden of excess advance premium tax credits (APTCs). Individuals eligible for APTCs or cost-sharing reductions for ACA plans could see the $600 weekly bump in federal unemployment benefits, included in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, result in reduced financial assistance for health insurance. This bill also eliminates the repayment burden of excess APTCs to help unemployed individuals manage what they may owe in the 2021 and 2022 tax seasons if they end up with a higher annual income than they had expected.

“Access to affordable and comprehensive health insurance is absolutely essential during this public health crisis. The last thing families should be worried about when collecting unemployment insurance is the possibility of losing their health coverage or not having access to it during a pandemic,” said Bennet. “This legislation will provide certainty to families and Colorado’s state marketplace so that every American can see their doctor or health provider when they need it.”

“Congress is providing unemployed Americans an extra boost during this pandemic to help them get by during a public health emergency. It should not be an impediment to getting the quality health coverage they need in the midst of a pandemic,” said Cardin. “To be fair, the $600 unemployment supplement should be exempt from income determinations in all categories of federal or state assistance.”  

“I am grateful to Senator Bennet for introducing legislation to correct the confusion for people who lost income and are seeking affordable coverage on their own,” said Connect for Health Colorado Chief Executive Officer Kevin Patterson. “It is critical to protect health insurance affordability when the risk of going without coverage has never been greater.” 

The $600 weekly add-on in federal unemployment compensation included in the CARES Act is not included in monthly income when determining an individual’s Medicaid and Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) eligibility. However, it currently counts toward a consumer’s annual income when determining financial assistance (premium tax credit or cost-sharing reductions) for ACA marketplace plans. Exempting the $600/week federal unemployment insurance payment from annual income will increase the amount of financial assistance unemployed consumers will qualify for, thereby lowering a consumer’s monthly health insurance premium or out-of-pocket costs. The legislation also protects those who may, for the first time, qualify for financial assistance for ACA marketplace plans due to the $600 weekly add-on. 

The text of the bill is available HERE. A one-page summary of the bill is available HERE.