Biden Health Officials Tout Affordability of ACA Plans as Enrollment Deadline Looms

The deadline to enroll in health insurance available through the Affordable Care Act on the federal exchange is Saturday, January 15.

CMS and HHS said Thursday that most Americans enrolled in Affordable Care Act (ACA) health plans through the federal exchange on HealthCare.gov have deductibles under $1000 because of the ACA’s cost-sharing reductions (CSRs), according to a report released Thursday by HHS.

The deadline to enroll in the current open enrollment period (OEP) is this Saturday, January 15. On a press call Thursday, HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra and CMS Administrator Chiquita Brooks-LaSure said that more than 14 million people enrolled during the sign-up period that began November 1.

Two million people are enrolled in ACA plans for the first time.

The improvements stem from the 2021 $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan (ARP), which expanded subsidies to more individuals above federal poverty levels. Unless Congress acts, the wider financial assistance for ACA plans, included as part of the Biden administration's Build Back Better Plan, will expire at the end of this year.

CSRs are generally available to consumers with incomes up to 250% of the federal poverty line.

In addition, the Biden administration restored funding for navigators and outreach; the previous administration cut funding for both of those, as well as the length of time the OEP was open. The Biden administration also expanded translation services to more than 200 languages to assist those looking to enroll.

Just over half (51%) of those looking for insurance on HealthCare.gov and enrolled during the OEP received CSRs, according to a report released Thursday by the HHS's Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation (ASPE). The report said deductibles were generally lower than those offered through private workplace-based insurance, and that plan choices increased 21%.

For plans with CSRs, median deductibles have been decreasing year-over-year, HHS said.

According to the report, silver metal tier plan deductibles after CSRs fell from $1000 to $750 between 2017 and 2021, before the ARP.

Among new consumers enrolling through the 2021 HealthCare.gov Special Enrollment Period last year, the median deductible fell from $450 to $50 after the ARP premium reduction provisions, indicating that most enrollees chose silver plans with CSRs.

Becerra said the administration does not plan to have another special enrollment period this year.