Bera Reintroduces Bicameral Bill to Make it Easier for Americans to Sign Up for Health Care
Washington, DC, February 17, 2023
Tags: Health Care
Today, Representative Ami Bera, M.D. (D-CA) introduced the Easy Enrollment in Health Care Act, bicameral legislation to simplify health care enrollment for Americans by allowing them to enroll in coverage when they file their federal tax returns.
“As a doctor who has cared for our nation’s patients, I have seen first-hand how stressful and overwhelming it can be to sign up for health care coverage,” said Representative Ami Bera, M.D, who previously served as Chief Medical Officer for Sacramento County. “That’s why I’m introducing the Easy Enrollment in Health Care Act with Senator Van Hollen to help millions of uninsured Americans automatically enroll in affordable health insurance at the same time they file their federal tax returns. It’s critical that we cut burdensome red tape to make it easier for Americans to get insured.”
Senator Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) introduced companion legislation in the U.S. Senate earlier this week.
“More Americans than ever can access free or low-cost health insurance through the Affordable Care Act, yet millions are still uninsured because of barriers they face in enrollment. Getting covered doesn’t need to be this complicated – and that’s why I’m introducing this bill to help Americans more easily find the health plans that work best for them by simply checking a box on their federal tax returns. Easy Enrollment is a simple, yet powerful approach that has already been proven in Maryland to boost participation in affordable health care plans, and it’s time we make it available nationwide,” said Senator Van Hollen.
Nearly 2 in 3 uninsured Americans are eligible for programs like Medicaid, CHIP, and Advanced Premium Tax Credits but still aren’t covered, totaling in over 18 million people – including 13 million who are eligible for free insurance at this very moment. This “enrollment gap” disproportionately harms families of color. In 2019, adults of color were 41% more likely than whites to qualify for health programs but not be enrolled, and nearly 2 in 3 uninsured children who qualify for Medicaid or CHIP are African-American, Latino, Indigenous, or other children of color. However, 4 in 5 uninsured citizens and lawfully present immigrants filed federal income tax returns, including 64% of those with incomes below 150% of the FPL.
Under this bill, Americans would be able to check a box on their federal income tax returns that would connect them with available health care programs in their state. By checking the box, the IRS would be authorized to share the data they already have on file with the individual’s state health care marketplace exchange. A menu of options would then be sent back to the individual in a formal letter – at which point that person could either chose to opt-in to a specific program or remain uninsured if they choose. Individuals would have a 60 day special enrollment window to make your choice, and those who are eligible for a zero-premium plan who neither select a program nor opt out would be paired automatically with the program that provides the highest coverage with no premiums.
This type of tax filing system could reach the millions of uninsured Americans who know little about health programs or their eligibility to receive free health care. In 2017, after ample public education and 4 open enrollment periods, 40% of uninsured Americans were still unaware of health insurance marketplaces. By checking the box, these same families could see whether they qualify for free or low-cost health care and then enroll. This legislation brings health care information directly to people who need it most – and makes it easier than ever to sign up for a plan with zero premiums.
The bill is supported by a large and diverse group of organizations, including: Families USA, Protect Our Care, Third Way, Blue Cross Blue Shield Association, First Focus, Alliance of Community Health Plans, American Academy of Pediatrics, American Cancer Society Action Network, American Heart Association, and Centene.