The American Rescue Plan, which is expected to head to President Joe Biden’s desk for his signature this week, is a $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill and the first legislative victory of the new administration.
An advisor to Biden’s transition team told attendees at America’s Health Insurance Plans’ virtual National Health Policy Conference that the massive relief bill “is a great first step.”
Chris Jennings, founder and president of Jennings Policy Strategies, has had more than 30 years of health policy experience in the White House, Congress and the private sector. He advised the Biden transition team on health care policy. Jennings told AHIP attendees that the importance of the American Rescue Plan goes far beyond its price tag.
“In my experience, with any new president, you have to have that first big victory,” Jennings said. “You have to go bold, and you have to go big. And that success begets future success as well.”
Jennings described the bill as “a significant investment to deal not only with COVID-19 challenges but economic challenges. The administration will have to implement it well as it also prepares for its next legislative priorities.”
Some items in the bill impact health care and have not attracted as much attention as other provisions, such as $1,400 stimulus checks. Jennings listed the health care-related portions of the bill. “There is a greater investment in the Affordable Care Act, more subsidies for COBRA so people can keep their coverage, a significant incentive for states who haven’t expanded Medicaid to do so. There are investments in mental health, as well as home- and community-based service alternatives.
“All of these are extraordinary opportunities for the country, to lay the down payment for future activities.”
The bill also contains a provision that reduces premiums for those who buy health insurance through the ACA exchanges, meaning that no one will pay more than 8.5% of their income on coverage.
Jennings said that where health insurance is concerned, “the public believes it is too costly and too complex to access.”
“The sector has a responsibility to address those challenges,” he said. “We need to do a better job of securing more affordable health care through lower costs and better usage of care.”
Susan Rupe is managing editor for InsuranceNewsNet. She formerly served as communications director for an insurance agents' association and was an award-winning newspaper reporter and editor. Contact her at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter @INNsusan.
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