Commentary

Tax credits that lowered my family’s health care costs are at risk. Yours may be, too.

June 30, 2022 6:00 am
Biden signs Family Glitch executive order 4/5/2022

President Joe Biden hands a commemorative pen to former President Barack Obama after signing an executive order that includes a proposal to fix the “Family Glitch” in the Affordable Care Act’s subsidies for some people buying health insurance. (Cameron Smith | Official White House photo)

When it comes to accessing quality, affordable health care, it can be very easy to forget just how far we’ve come. That’s my takeaway from a remarkable opportunity I had recently that reminded me of the progress this country has made and my own family has lived through. 

As a small business owner, my family was among those who benefitted from improvements to the Affordable Care Act that became law during the height of the pandemic. With all the uncertainty of these last few COVID-years, the savings for our employees —  and my own family — were game changers. Turns out that public policy really can, and sometimes does, reach right into your personal life. 

Which is how I found myself invited to an event at the White House focused on health care. In a million years I never imagined being in the room with an American president, much less two, for a conversation about how to lower the cost of health care for working families. 

The American Rescue Plan, which passed Congress without a single Republican vote and was signed into law by President Joe Biden, included enhanced premium tax credits for those, like my family, who purchase their health care through the Obamacare marketplace. 

Unfortunately, those tax credits, which lowered the cost of health care for millions of families, are set to expire at the end of this year. 

As part of the push to urge Congress to extend the tax credits, President Biden invited his old boss back to the White House to talk about the progress the country has made on health care, and how much work there is left to do. 

When Joe Biden became Vice President, it was perfectly legal for insurance companies to deny people health care coverage if they had a pre-existing condition. There was no limit on how much you could pay out of pocket for health care even if you had good health insurance. 

Not anymore. 

Thanks to Obamacare, it is now illegal to discriminate against those with pre-existing conditions, and there are annual as well as lifetime limits on how much you can be forced to pay out of pocket for health care. 

Those provisions, and Obamacare as a whole, aren’t perfect. But they are a far cry from where we were not too long ago. Which is why it’s so hard to understand why Republicans like Ron Johnson continue to talk about repealing Obamacare. Rather than build on the progress we’ve made, it seems Republicans would rather undo all the progress. 

Biden executive order 4/5/2022
The executive order that President Joe Biden signed April 5, 2022, for a rule to fix the “Family Glitch” affecting subsidies for insurance purchased under the Affordable Care Act. (Cameron Smith | Official White House photo)

Millions more Americans have affordable health care coverage today due to Obamacare. And among the improvements discussed at the White House that day two presidents came together to talk about health care was one that finally got addressed just this year.

By Executive Order, President Biden fixed the Family Glitch, a problem with the formula that determined the amount of subsidies families are eligible for. 

There was a problem. A mistake, really. And it was hurting families in a way that wasn’t supposed to happen. 

So President Biden fixed it. And invited former President Obama to celebrate the progress. 

Now, it’s time to build on that progress once again, by extending the Advanced Premium Tax Credits that were part of the American Rescue Plan. 

Here’s what those tax credits meant for my family. 

As small business owners, we had been used to spending around 20-25% of our income, over $30,000 per year, on health care. The American Rescue Plan reduced that percentage to 8.5%, allowing us to finally get some relief on health care spending for my family and my employees’ families. In fact, some of my employees were able to afford health insurance for the first time in years. 

It is critical that Congress extend, indefinitely, the 8.5% provision so that more people can continue to better afford their care and not worry from year to year if they will have health care or not. 

Doing so would represent another step forward of real progress in this country’s journey when it comes to health care. When it comes time to celebrate that progress, I hope that someone else who benefits will have a turn to celebrate in the White House like I had the opportunity to. 

Maybe that person will get the chance to give these leaders a great big hug of thanks for their work on this important issue. I did not have that opportunity, but it was a day that will stay with me and give me the strength to continue as a volunteer advocate until every American has access to affordable quality care. 

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Chrysa Ostenso
Chrysa Ostenso

Chrysa Ostenso co-owns a small business in Ladysmith, Wisconsin, with her husband. A mother of four, Ostenso is an active member of her community with her church, her local Chamber of Commerce, and as a member of Citizen Action of Wisconsin.

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