WASHINGTON—U.S. Representatives Stephanie Murphy and Donna Shalala, both from Florida, have introduced legislation to increase access to affordable health insurance for millions of Americans without coverage, including 2.7 million Floridians. The Murphy-Shalala bill, called the Health Insurance Marketplace Affordability Act (HIMAA), would reduce premiums for individuals who purchase plans through the health insurance marketplace by increasing the tax credits that prime working-age Americans—between ages 21 and 54—receive from the federal government when they buy marketplace coverage, without reducing credits for any American enrolled in the marketplace. This would lead millions of younger and healthier Americans to enroll in the marketplace, improving the risk pool and reducing premiums for individuals of all ages enrolled in in the marketplace.
The Murphy-Shalala bill is particularly important in light of the COVID-19 crisis, which has already caused about 30 million Americans to lose their jobs and, as a result, their employer-sponsored health coverage. Individuals without health insurance are less likely to seek testing and treatment, which poses a threat to their own health and to the health of others in their community.
“The only way to control this pandemic is to ensure every American has access to testing and treatment and that they stay as healthy as possible,” said Murphy, who helped lead the Department of Defense’s pandemic response to the avian flu in 2005. “But when Floridians lose their jobs, they often lose access to their employer-sponsored health insurance, so it’s critical they have access to an affordable, quality plan. Additionally, when we bring more younger, healthier people into the coverage pool, we lower the cost of health insurance for everyone.”
“COVID-19 is a public health threat unlike any in living memory and the protections of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) are now more important than ever,” said Shalala, a former Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. “In the last few weeks, millions of Americans have lost their jobs and often their employer provided health insurance, but the ACA continues to provide access to quality affordable health insurance. I have always said that strengthening the ACA is critical, but with our country suffering both a health and an economic crisis, it is even more critical. This bill will help give millions the peace of mind that they can afford high-quality health insurance during this pandemic and after we emerge from this crisis.”
Lack of health insurance is a persistent problem in the United States. In 2018, nearly 28 million non-elderly individuals were uninsured nationwide. Florida has one of the highest uninsured rates in the country, at 13 percent. According to the Census Bureau, prior to the COVID crisis, there were 87,000 uninsured residents in Murphy’s central Florida district and over 105,000 in Shalala’s south Florida district—and these figures have only gotten worse as a result of the pandemic.
One of the main reasons that so many Americans—and especially Floridians—are uninsured is that Florida and 14 other states have not expanded Medicaid to cover more individuals. Murphy and Shalala have repeatedly called on Florida’s leaders to expand Medicaid, to no avail. The other main reason is that many Americans cannot afford coverage through the health insurance marketplaces because federal subsidies are too low. HIMAA would address this problem.
The Murphy-Shalala bill, H.R. 6545, was supported in a recent Miami Herald op-ed authored by the CEO of Florida Blue, which offers plans in the state’s marketplace, and has been endorsed by Young Invincibles, a non-profit organization that seeks to promote the interests of young adults in this country.