SACRAMENTO — For the last two years, Syd Winlock has had a major burden lifted from his surgically repaired shoulder.
Federal subsidies passed as part of a temporary pandemic relief package have drastically cut how much he pays in health care premiums, allowing the Sacramento-area small-business owner to purchase an insurance plan during the last two years that provided better coverage for his shoulder and knee replacements.
Those federal subsidies, however, will expire at the end of this year if Congress does not extend the program. His “very manageable” price — about $700 a month for him and his wife — will increase to $2,300, Winlock said.
“Even if we went to a lesser-type policy, it would still be about $1,800 a month,” Winlock, 63, said. “I mean, that’s more than my mortgage.”
Roughly 150,000 lower- and middle-income Californians would be similarly priced out of coverage by the rising premiums if the federal subsidies are not extended, a Covered California analysis recently estimated.
The federal subsidies were passed in early 2021 as part of the Biden administration’s American Rescue Plan Act, which temporarily provided help to Americans to recover from the economic and health effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Under the act, health insurance premiums were capped at 8.5% of a household’s income. That significantly dropped monthly payments and led to more consumers signing up through Covered California, the insurance marketplace created by the 2010 Affordable Care Act for working-age people who aren’t covered by a health plan at their job.
Enrollment in the state’s exchange has hit a record-high 1.8 million, of which Covered California reported that 92% received some form of subsidy.
“These enhanced subsidies have fundamentally delivered affordability and delivered on the promise of the Affordable Care Act in the way that it was intended,” said Jessica Altman, executive director of Covered California.
“There were a lot of people who said things like, ‘Oh, my gosh, you know, for the first time I can afford my health insurance and my child care....’ This is particularly important given the inflationary environment we are in now.”