Officials expect sign-ups to keep growing because millions of people became eligible effective Apr. 1 for pumped-up subsidies toward their premiums under President Joe Biden’s coronavirus relief legislation. In addition, the Congressional Budget Office estimates about 3 million people lost coverage as a result of the pandemic, while some private experts estimate higher numbers in the range of 5 to 10 million.
The special sign-up opportunity for Affordable Care Act plans will be available until Aug. 15.
Biden campaigned and is now building on the Obama-era health law to push the United States toward coverage for all.
With the number of uninsured Americans rising during the pandemic, Biden reopened the law’s heath insurance markets as a backstop. Then, the virus aid package essentially delivered a health insurance price cut by making taxpayer subsidies more generous, while also allowing more people to qualify for financial assistance.
These aids are available the rest of this year and through the end of 2022. Consumers who were already covered by the health law at the beginning of this year are also entitled to the increased financial aid, but will have to go online or call to update their plan. People on average could save $50 a month, the government says.
The numbers released Wednesday by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services show that 528,005 people newly signed up for government-sponsored private plans from Feb. 15 to Mar. 31.
Republicans say expanding the health law is the wrong way to go, but Waqaas Al-Siddiq, PhD, founder and CEO of Biotricity, a medical diagnostic and consumer healthcare technology company, shares insights on the importance of coverage expansion.
“Coverage expansion is the right direction for healthcare in the US,” Al-Siddiq said. “We are already in a semi public/private system as CMS is the largest insurer which is essentially public coverage administered through private providers. The broader issue is still a need to address the costs associated with administration. If we can tackle that, the cost of expanded coverage would be significantly less as a result of cost savings by reduction of unnecessary admin layers.”
He also shared what this coverage means for the healthcare landscape in the U.S. and what it means for telemedicine.
“Coverage means the healthcare market will increase, emergency visits and expenses should come down, and hopefully premiums will come down,” he added. “There are broader issues to impact the latter but there are many steps required to optimize the US healthcare system.”
For now, telemedicine will be expanded because guidelines and coverage as a result of covid are still in place, Al-Siddiq said.
“What happens to telemedicine after covid or once these guidelines get close to expiration remains to be seen. I suspect they will become standardized as the value of telemedicine has become quite clear.”