JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - For Mississippians who think they can’t afford health insurance, Health and Human Services Sec. Xavier Becerra says think again.
Thanks to the passage of the American Rescue Plan, more than 119,000 people in the Magnolia State are now eligible for reduced insurance rates through the federal marketplace, Healthcare.gov.
That number includes more than 100,000 people who are able to sign up for coverage with zero out-of-pocket costs for any level of plan offered and more than 119,000 people who are eligible to receive reduced rates on any plan available via the healthcare website.
Even so, more than a month after ARP passed, just 7,500 people in Mississippi had taken advantage of those benefits.
Citing that fact, Becerra said the Biden administration is stepping up efforts to increase enrollment.
“We’re reaching out. We’re going to go out there. We have a program which is run by navigators who go out there and know the community … entities and respected leaders who have the confidence of the neighborhoods, and they’ll be available to start helping to reach out to some of the community organizations and health clinics,” Becerra said.
“We want to reach out to those Americans who don’t know about this opportunity to get really good healthcare coverage at a low cost,” he added. “President Biden wanted to make sure we didn’t miss anyone who qualified.”
Congress passed ARP in early March. The $1.9 trillion stimuli include provisions to reduce premiums for individuals and families seeking insurance through the federal platform and expanded those discounts to those who earn up to 400 times the federal poverty level (FPL).
The discounts are being offered as “advance tax credits” during a special enrollment period put in place by the president.
The bill increased the number of people in Mississippi eligible for zero-dollar premiums from 48,332 to 100,620; it also increased the number of people who would pay $50 or less a month for any level plan offered on the federal platform from 82,560 people to 119,368, according to data provided by the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation’s Office of Health Policy.
“The vast majority of folks who are enrolling are paying some $10 a month for... coverage,” Becerra said. “Some (are paying) even less.”
Nationwide, the FPL is $12,760 for a single-person household and $24,600 for a family of four.
Under ARP, individuals making as much as $51,040 a year are eligible for reduced premiums, as are families of four earning $104,800 annually.
Additionally, individuals earning 150 percent above the poverty level can receive a 100% subsidy for benchmark plans.
Meanwhile, an additional 9.5 million non-elderly uninsured Americans who earn between 150 and 400 percent of FLP qualify for subsidies that reduce overall premium costs, according to the Health and Human Services website.
“I’m like the president. I believe healthcare should be a right, not a privilege for just a few,” Becerra said. “There are a whole bunch of Mississippians who work really hard but find it really tough to pay for that insurance.”
Becerra is encouraging people to sign up not only for themselves but for their families and their neighbors.
“With my family, I want peace of mind knowing if something happens to my daughter, I can take her to a doctor, I can take her to a hospital (and) I don’t have to worry about paying my mortgage or rent because I did that,” he said. “Today, you can have that peace of mind.”
He said taxpayers also benefit when people get insurance. “When you don’t have health insurance, and you have to use a doctor or hospital, you typically go to the emergency room. That’s the most expensive form of healthcare you can find. And guess who ends up paying the bill if you can’t? The taxpayer.”
For more information, log onto healthcare.gov or call 1 (800) 318-2596.