Liz Weston: Here’s who is eligible for free or lower cost health insurance through COVID-19 relief

Liz Weston: Here’s who is eligible for free or lower cost health insurance through COVID-19 relief

The relief package reduced premiums for the vast majority of people who buy their own insurance, McDermott says. In addition, nearly half of the 29 million currently uninsured now qualify for a free plan, he says. Before the new relief package, people with incomes greater than 400% of the federal poverty level typically didn’t qualify for subsidies to reduce their premiums. Now people with incomes up to 600% of the poverty level — up to $76,560 for a single person or $157,200 for a family of four — can qualify, according to KFF. (KFF’s calculator can show you how much you’d likely pay for ACA coverage.) Those with incomes below 250% of the poverty line also will benefit from reduced cost-sharing, which means lower deductibles and other out-of-pocket costs. At 150% of the poverty line — income of about $19,000 for a single person and just under $40,000 for a family of four — people qualify for zero-premium silver plans with annual deductibles of just $177 .

MILLIONS QUALIFY FOR FREE ACA COVERAGE People who lost their jobs but want to keep their former employer’s health insurance also may get help. If you don’t qualify for group health insurance elsewhere, the federal government will pay your COBRA premiums for up to six months.

Since 2013, ACA exchanges have allowed people to buy individual and family health insurance policies, usually with tax credits that reduced their premiums and other costs. ACA has four levels: bronze, silver, gold and platinum. Bronze plans typically have the lowest monthly premiums and the highest deductibles; platinum plans have the highest premiums and the lowest deductibles. In fact, many people who are currently uninsured will qualify for free or low-cost coverage through the exchanges or Medicaid, says Daniel McDermott, a policy analyst with KFF, the nonpartisan health care think tank formerly known as the Kaiser Family Foundation.

Some people still don’t qualify for subsidies, including most people with incomes above 600% of the poverty line; undocumented immigrants; people who have offers of employer-provided health insurance that’s considered affordable; and certain low-income people in states that haven’t expanded Medicaid coverage. WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW ABOUT FREE COBRA COVERAGE The expansion of Affordable Care Act subsidies is retroactive to Jan. 1 and will continue through Dec. 31, 2022. People must purchase their insurance from Healthcare.gov or their state’s ACA exchange to qualify for subsidies. The act also created a new special enrollment period that extends through Aug . 15, 2021.

HOW TO QUALIFY FOR ACA SUBSIDIES Millions of unemployed people will be eligible for similar coverage. Anyone who receives unemployment benefits for any part of 2021 can qualify for a zero-premium silver plan with the maximum cost-sharing reductions, McDermott says. “For all intents and purposes, the health insurance exchanges are going to look at you as if your income was under 150%” of poverty level, he says.

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