Opinion: We need permanent healthcare subsidies

Published: 6/5/2022 9:02:25 AM
Modified: 6/5/2022 9:00:15 AM

Ned Helms has over 30 years of experience in New Hampshire health policy. He is a former Commissioner of the NH Department of Health and Human Services and former Director of the New Hampshire Institute for Health Policy and Practice.

It’s been a hard fight and a fragile road to recovery from the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. But this is not a fight that will be simply won or lost. It will be an ongoing battle that requires strong policy solutions to meet evolving and diverse public health needs.

With a new wave of COVID hitting many communities across the nation, legislators need to prepare for more potential public health challenges that lie ahead. We must focus on protecting public health and maintaining healthcare solutions that are proven to work for our communities.

I’ve dedicated my career to examining and improving public health policy and finding solutions to better serve our communities’ health needs. With decades of dedication to enhancing lives through healthcare, I’m constantly examining new ways we can better serve the citizens of New Hampshire through public health systems and resources.

Serving as Commissioner of New Hampshire’s Department of Health and Human services afforded me important opportunities to make a difference in the way we administer and operate our healthcare systems. But you don’t have to have served in this capacity or have a breadth of knowledge in health policy to understand one key issue that’s still burdening our communities: affordable healthcare.

Far too many Americans have experienced what it’s like to struggle to pay for medical care because they lack health insurance. But thankfully, when the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) was passed last year, it extended a significant program that helps to mitigate these medical costs. ARPA extended vital healthcare tax credits that made 22,900 previously uninsured state residents eligible for relief to help them buy marketplace insurance for the first time.

But now we are facing an urgent issue that could threaten this progress. In a matter of 7 months, these tax credits will expire if Congress doesn’t make them permanent. Letting them expire would put thousands of New Hampshire residents at risk of not being able to purchase affordable coverage next year.

We need to keep this door open for our communities, not shut it just as we’re stabilizing from the turbulence of the pandemic and gearing up to face new potential public health challenges.

New COVID cases are growing in New Hampshire, rising at a rate that has more than tripled in recent months, increasing 231% since the beginning of April. We’ve seen the devastating toll this virus can take on our communities. And for those already suffering from acute conditions or are immunocompromised, another wave of the COVID virus is an unnerving prospect.

For vulnerable or at-risk populations for which any illness could turn into a medical emergency, it’s a life-or-death matter when it comes to the ability to receive quick, affordable medical care.

Health insurance tax credits have helped get people the care they need through affordable health coverage. We must continue this program so more people can take advantage of them not just now, but in the years to come. This only happens if Congress acts with haste to make them permanent before the August recess.

A recent report from Families USA highlighted the urgency of the issue, noting that if no permanent solution is reached, families buying their own insurance through the marketplace will face a 53% average increase in premium costs. This would amount to a massive $12 billion cost increase for more than 14 million people nationwide.

The same report finds that in New Hampshire, the average premium cost of individual federal marketplace insurance with ARPA subsidies is $2,544 per year. Without subsidies, the cost will rise $720 per person — a 28% increase. These price hikes will set our communities back and stall progress in bringing more people into the insurance marketplace.

I thank Senators Hassan and Shaheen for their past support of extending these subsidies and encourage them to continue their strong advocacy for more affordable healthcare.

Before Congress breaks for summer recess, let’s let them know we have their backs and urge for their continued support for making tax credits permanent. This will allow Congress to take this next step forward and solidify healthcare subsidies for millions of Americans in the decades to come.

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