US Senator Chris Van Hollen (D) announced on Tuesday that he is seeking to expand access to health insurance to millions of Americans by reflecting a state law in force which allows people to enroll through the Maryland Health Benefit Exchange by checking a box on their tax return.
“This bill represents American federalism and bipartisanship at its best,” said Stan Dorn, director of the National Center for Coverage Innovation of consumer health advocacy group Families USA, at a press conference Tuesday after -midday. “Using states as laboratories for democracy, Senator Van Hollen now says, ‘Let’s take this great innovation in Maryland, make it smoother and more efficient in a way that we can only do by changing the rules. at the federal level. “
If enacted, the Van Hollen Easy Enrollment in Health Care Act would allow the IRS to share an individual’s personal information with their state’s health exchange marketplace. The health exchange would then send a registration letter to the person, allowing them to choose an insurance plan.
According to Van Hollen, there would be a special 60-day enrollment period for those eligible for free insurance. If they don’t choose a plan and opt out, they would automatically be enrolled in the program that offers the highest coverage with no premiums.
Van Hollen said on Tuesday that two in three uninsured Americans are eligible to receive free or low cost Medicare under programs like Medicaid, the Children’s Medicare Program, and the Advance Premium Tax Credits.
“That’s 18 million people, including 13 million Americans who would be eligible for free insurance right now,” he said. “It’s the enrollment gap, and it’s hurting families at all levels. “
Most of those eligible people also file federal income tax returns, Van Hollen said.
“This type of tax filing system could reach millions upon millions of uninsured Americans who know little about these health care programs or their current eligibility to receive health care, including health care. free, ”said Van Hollen.
According to Michele Eberle, executive director of the Maryland Health Benefit Exchange, 27,000 Maryland households checked the box on their tax returns in 2021, 10% of which resulted in registrations.
Of those enrolled, 72% were eligible for Medicaid.
“It’s free health insurance,” Eberle said. “They didn’t even know they were entitled to it. We registered them.
Of the. Lorig Charkoudian (D-Montgomery) sponsored legislation during the 2021 session which added the clause to check the box for unemployment insurance claims.
At a virtual event hosted by the Maryland Citizens Health Initiative last week, Charkoudian said that to his knowledge, Maryland is the first state to streamline the link between UI and a platform for exchange. health care in this way.
“It’s really exciting for both the Marylanders and hopefully people across the country,” Charkoudian said.
In a telephone interview Tuesday afternoon, Dorn said Van Hollen’s legislation has the ability to expand access to health coverage nationwide – even in Maryland.
For example, instead of forcing uninsured people to guess what their income will be next year to determine if they qualify, the federal implementation would allow them to enroll in insurance programs based on their taxable income from the previous year.
“What this means is that when you file your taxes you will know what you are entitled to and it cannot be taken out, it is guaranteed,” he continued.
Dorn emphasized bipartisanship nature of the state legislation that inspired Van Hollen’s bill, noting that it was implemented with the support of Democrats and Republicans in Maryland and was also passed in Colorado and Massachusetts.
“There is a lot of consensus of experts from all philosophical walks of life who say:… we can certainly all agree that people who have the right to health [insurance] should get it, ”Dorn said.