Congress has its fair share of villains. You know their names because once elected they view being on television as important as breathing. They may not actually do anything you or I might associate with legislating. Their names are seldom connected to legislation that ever becomes law. At best, they often seem to delight in their ability to prevent action. You will see them on the Sunday morning shows bragging about the presidential appointees they have tried to block or the meaningless amendments they have offered in an attempt to clutter the process. Other Congressmen are merely placeholders. They carefully embrace anonymity. Their weekly constituent emails extol the virtues of mom and apple pie and hope like heck that they are never called upon to exhibit leadership or to take a stand on a controversial issue. For them, reelection is the only goal.
I would rather focus on the heroes. And yes, Congress does have heroes, individuals who view their election as an opportunity to devise legislation that could help their constituents. I introduced my readers to Representative Lauren Underwood (D-IL) this past July. She drafted H.R. 4996, Helping Medicaid Offer Maternity Services (MOMS) Act of 2019 as a freshman Congresswoman. Her legislation was designed to expand Medicaid services a full year postpartum. The logic was clear. “The majority of pregnancy-related deaths happen after the day of delivery, and nearly one quarter of deaths happen more than six weeks postpartum.” It took a nurse to bring this to Congress’s attention. And now, the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 includes her legislation!
The current COVID relief package includes several other provisions to help Americans acquire health insurance, the way most of us access and pay for health care.
Tax Credit Subsidy
The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) was designed to help people purchase their health insurance. The initial plan was to provide a tax subsidy starting with individuals earning 150% of the federal poverty rate that decreased in value until it ended with an income equivalent to 400%. This has never been updated until now. For the next two years the subsidy at the lower income levels has been increased and, and this is really important, it doesn’t cut off at 400%. Many of my clients have had difficulty paying for insurance because they make just a little too much to qualify for a subsidy. This is going to allow them to purchase a regular policy instead of short term major medical.
The COBRA regulation allows a former employee to retain the health insurance coverage he/she had from the previous employer. The former employee must pay the full premium plus a fee of up to 2%. The American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 will help laid off employees by paying the premiums through September. This will allow some people to retain their coverage who might not have otherwise.
There are other provisions in the new law related to Medicaid and subsidy relief. Much of the focus of the new COVID relief package will be on the stimulus checks coming to American families by the end of this month and the enhanced unemployment checks. Others will focus on the fact that no Republicans voted for the bill, even after some of their amendments were included. My focus is on health insurance and our elected representatives who are trying to make things better. That’s leadership.
Picture – Visiting The People’s House – David L Cunix