Commentary

Congress needs to make health care subsidies permanent | Opinion

Like other families of children with disabilities and special health care needs, our thoughts never stray too far from concerns that our kids have continued access to the resources they need to thrive

Millions of Americans who have benefitted from health care subsidies are at risk of losing their opportunity to access affordable, quality coverage. Expanded tax credits are set to expire at the end of this year (Stock.adobe.com image by Rawpixel.com/Maryland Matters).

By Rene Averitt-Sanzone

Like most mothers, some of my first thoughts every morning are about my children. I have two daughters, both now adults, who are deaf. I am immensely proud of them, and as their mother, I am no less concerned with their happiness, health and safety today than when they were little.

Like other families of children with disabilities and special health care needs, our thoughts never stray too far from concerns that our kids have continued access to the resources they need to thrive.

Add one more concern to our list: a critical federal program that has gone a long way to improving access to affordable health care for people in these communities could expire at the end of the year.

At The Parents’ Place of Maryland, we work every day to empower families as advocates and partners in improving both education and health outcomes for children across the state who are differently-abled or have additional care needs. These children deserve every opportunity to reach their full potential.

Yet far too often, we continue to see these children fall through the cracks in our health care system — especially as they reach adulthood.

Children with special health care needs of any kind — from hearing impairment to autism, learning disabilities or genetic disorders — can grow up to be working, contributing members of society. They can live full, independent lives when they have access to the right resources.

However, far too many face a significant roadblock in affording the care they need when they age off their parents’ health care plans.

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Because of the expansion of the Affordable Care Act health care subsidies in the American Rescue Plan Act last year, enrollment in Maryland Health Connection plans grew by more than 60% for individuals who previously did not qualify for tax credits, bringing life-saving financial relief to thousands of Marylanders.

These subsidies have helped lower the cost of care through the federal marketplace, providing affordable options to more Marylanders and improving access to care for a broader group of individuals and families. More than 50,000 individuals in our communities who might not have previously qualified for subsidies can now afford the necessary coverage for the care they need.

Tragically, these Marylanders and millions of other Americans who have benefitted from these health care subsidies are now at risk of losing their opportunity to access affordable, quality coverage: The expanded tax credits are set to expire at the end of this year unless Congress acts now to make them permanent.

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We cannot let these subsidies expire. They represent important progress in improving our country’s health care system to better serve all Americans.

If the tax credits are allowed to expire, close to 15 million individuals across the country could see their premiums increase by an average of $600 per year. With increased costs of coverage, our children and neighbors could be forced to go without the resources they need to truly succeed.

According to a 2021 Gallup poll, nearly a third of all Americans have reported that they have not sought care or treatment because of the cost.

We can and should do better.

U.S. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., played a key role when these subsidies were first created in the Affordable Care Act. He then played a key role in the passage of the American Rescue Plan Act.

Now, we call on the House majority leader along with the rest of his colleagues in Congress to ensure that the insurance subsidies expanded under the American Rescue Plan are made permanent before they expire in a matter of months. In doing so, we give ourselves the opportunity to continue building on the improvements they represent.

Our children’s future depends on it.

Rene Averitt-Sanzone is the executive director at The Parents’ Place of Maryland, Maryland’s special education and health information center since June 2017. She has held a variety of roles in the field of special education – parent educator, early childhood behavior specialist, evaluator and charter school administrator. She is the parent of two grown daughters who are deaf. She wrote this piece for Maryland Matters, a sibling site of the Pennsylvania Capital-Star, where it first appeared.

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