COVID stimulus package boosts health coverage for over 100,000 in New Jersey


Beyond stimulus checks and expanded unemployment payments, the federal relief package signed by President Joe Biden this month does more to expand health coverage in New Jersey than any measure since the Affordable Care Act became law in 2010.

Job losses and high insurance costs have left about 500,000 New Jersey residents without health insurance this year, including 191,000 Latinos and almost 94,000 Blacks, according to federal estimates. The additional aid should help more than 100,000 of them get coverage, federal officials estimate.

The changes “are a huge benefit to our residents at a time when health coverage could not be more important,” said Marlene Caride, the state Commissioner of Banking and Insurance. “It makes the most significant change to the Affordable Care Act since its implementation by expanding subsidies to ensure Americans have access to affordable health coverage as we combat a global health crisis.”

The $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan will make insurance accessible to laid-off workers, low- and moderate-income people who can’t get it any other way, and Medicaid recipients for a year after the birth of a child.

And it will help hospitals by reducing the amount of uncompensated care they provide.

Federal officials estimate that 100,000 currently uninsured New Jersey residents will be eligible for tax credits to help pay for insurance under the new law. Nearly 14,000 low-income individuals are expected to receive help that takes their premiums down to $0.

Others who lost their jobs and couldn’t afford the cost of continuing job-based coverage via COBRA, or the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act, will be eligible for subsidies that pay their COBRA premiums through September.

And anyone who gets unemployment payments this year may be eligible for subsidies to buy individual insurance.

“The department is working to implement these changes to increase access to quality, affordable coverage for residents and to provide guidance on accessing the benefits as soon as possible,” Caride said.

The tax credits are especially helpful to low-income residents, who account for most of the uninsured, said Maura Collinsgru, health care advocate for New Jersey Citizen Action. They “will immediately make coverage more affordable and lower the actual out of pocket costs.”

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