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Joe Biden reopens access to Obamacare markets — here’s how to save on premiums

Joe Biden reopens access to Obamacare markets — here's how to save on premiums
Joe Biden reopens access to Obamacare markets — here’s how to save on premiums

Barely unpacked from his move to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, President Joe Biden is making big moves in health care policy.

The president ordered the temporary reopening of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) insurance marketplace, in one of a series of steps that experts say could provide better and more affordable access to health plans for millions of uninsured Americans.

Here’s how the changes could affect you, and a few ways to shrink your premium.

Insurance marketplace opening soon

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Through an executive order, the president will open the health insurance exchanges for three months, starting Feb. 15. on Healthcare.gov, the marketplace that serves 36 states.

The remaining states manage their own marketplaces, but could follow suit, creating a national effort to pair Americans with health coverage. These 14 states are:

  • Alaska

  • Colorado

  • Delaware

  • Maine

  • Maryland

  • Minnesota

  • Montana

  • New Hampshire

  • New Jersey

  • North Dakota

  • Oregon

  • Pennsylvania

  • Rhode Island

  • Wisconsin

Even before the pandemic, roughly 30 million Americans were without coverage. Another 2-3 million workers lost employee-based health plans between March and September, according to estimates by the Kaiser Family Foundation.

But the non-profit organization also says 15 million uninsured people in the U.S. could qualify for the ACA health plans.

Biden’s executive orders also remove barriers to Medicaid added under the previous administration, with the White House saying that “obtaining insurance benefits is more difficult than necessary.”

A ‘stimulus check’ for your health insurance

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The biggest health plan hurdle has been affordability, with some studies showing nearly half of Americans struggling to find coverage that they can fit in their budget. But most enrollees in the ACA marketplace receive subsidies, in the form of tax credits, to reduce premiums.

As part of the new administration’s proposed $1.9 trillion spending package — you know, your third stimulus check — Biden plans to boost subsidies, which could substantially reduce what you pay out-of-pocket in health insurance premiums.

The Kaiser Family Foundation estimates that nearly nine million of those uninsured Americans would be eligible for some amount of federal subsidy, including four million that could get an ACA plan with no premium payment.

How can I save on premiums?

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First, find out if you’re eligible for federal insurance like Medicare or Medicaid. With the White House aiming to remove roadblocks, you may not even know you qualify.

If you don’t have access to health coverage through your employer, the opening of the exchanges is an opportunity to connect to an affordable health plan.

Even though you may be able to sign up for a subsidized policy under Biden’s proposed plan, coverage can still be expensive. Free services are available online that will let you compare quotes and coverage from multiple insurers. In minutes, you can find the best rate available.

Need to cut even more from your bill?

Switch to a high-deductible health plan. If your medical bills are limited to physicals and screenings, a high-deductible plan could knock some money off your monthly premiums. That kind of plan could also make you eligible for a health savings account (HSA), a tax-advantaged account just for medical-related expenses.

Save on other insurance bills. Don’t be left uninsured during a global health crisis. If your premiums are still too high, try cutting other insurance bills. If you’re driving less during the pandemic, see if your insurance company will cut your rates; otherwise, find an insurer with a better rate. You can also save hundreds on your homeowners insurance by doing some comparison shopping to find a better deal.

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