Wednesday, May 23 , 2018, 1:52 am | Fair 57º


Capps Co-Sponsors ‘Fair Access to Health Care’ Legislation

Rep. Lois Capps, D-Santa Barbara, announced she is co-sponsoring the Fair Access to Health Care Act (House Resolution 3986).

The legislation, introduced by fellow California Reps. Mike Thompson and Anna Eshoo, would expand eligibility for premium assistance and tax credits to people living in high-cost areas who purchase health insurance through the federal and state exchanges set up by the Affordable Care Act.

“One of my top priorities has always been working to ensure fair and equal access to quality, affordable health care," Capps said. "While we’ve come a long way, there is still work to be done. That is why I am proud to co-sponsor the Fair Access to Health Care Act, which would help level the playing field so that all middle-class families, no matter where they live, have access to affordable health insurance. This is especially important for individuals living in high-cost areas like the Central Coast.”

Currently, the ACA allows those making between 138 and 400 percent of the federal poverty level to qualify for premium tax credits to help them purchase health insurance through the ACA’s exchange marketplaces, such as Covered California. At this level, an individual making up to $45,960 and a family of four making up to $94,200 qualify for this assistance.

However, the income threshold used to determine eligibility for these tax credits does not take into account the cost of living in different geographic areas. A family living in Santa Barbara is treated the same as a family living in a small town in South Carolina or Texas, despite the large differences in cost of living. The Fair Access to Health Care Act would make a common sense change to the ACA by allowing the premium assistance currently offered to be based on an area’s cost of living.

Under the bill, the federal poverty level threshold would increase proportionally based on an area’s cost-of-living above the national average cost-of-living. The cost-of-living is determined using the Census Bureau’s Supplemental Poverty Measure.

For example, using this calculation:

» In the Santa Barbara-Santa Maria-Goleta, California Metropolitan Statistical Area, a family of four earning up to $122,403 and individuals earning up to $59,720 would qualify for premium assistance to purchase health insurance through Covered California.

» In the San Luis Obispo-Paso Robles, California MSA, a family of four earning up to  $109,856 and an individual earning up to $59,720 would qualify for premium assistance to purchase health insurance through Covered California.

Precedent already exists in the ACA for such cost-of-living adjustments. The ACA accounts for the cost-of-living differences in Alaska and Hawaii by using a higher income threshold to determine subsidy eligibility. The Fair Access to Health Care Act would provide similar adjustments to those living in the other 48 states.

Individuals and families from low-cost geographical areas would not be impacted by this legislation. Those earning up to 400 percent of the FPL would still be eligible for subsides and no region would see a reduction from their current subsidy level.

C.J. Young is a press assistant for Rep. Lois Capps, D-Santa Barbara.


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