August 8, 2022
Dr. Jessie Ice, Executive Director
Statement of West Virginians for Affordable Health Care On the
Senate Passage of the Inflation Reduction Act
“It has been a long race with many hurdles, but at long last Senator Manchin and the Senate Democrats have brought a final compromise package of legislation across the finish line. We celebrate the Inflation Reduction Act – a historic and significant legislative package that moves our national toward a fairer tax system, makes health coverage and prescription drugs more affordable, and addresses the global challenge of climate change,” stated Dr. Jessica Ice, Executive Director, West Virginians for Affordable Health Care.
Lower Health Insurance Premiums
The provisions that continue the expanded health insurance premium tax credits for three years will prevent 3.1 million people from losing coverage and becoming uninsured in 2023 while reducing the cost of coverage for millions more.
In West Virginia, more than 20,000 residents depend on the American Rescue Plan’s premium tax credits. Families buying health insurance on the state Marketplace will save an average of $2,740 a year. For older West Virginians, the savings will be much higher.
A July 2022 analysis by The Urban Institute shows that the enhanced premium tax credits largely increase benefits for people with low incomes, but they also provide important benefits for people at somewhat higher income levels and no job-based coverage who face the highest premiums: people who are over age 50, or who live in high premium states (West Virginia has the highest in the country), or people with large families.
Kathleen Stoll, Policy Director, West Virginians for Affordable Health Care highlighted some of the numbers that illustrate what the Inflation Reduction Act’s premium provisions mean for West Virginians, “The premium savings are huge. A middle-class West Virginia family of four will avoid a premium hike in 2023 of $1,626, or $19,512 annually. A pair of middle class empty nesters with one adult child on their insurance in West Virginia won’t have to face monthly premium hike of $2,087, or $25,044 annually. A middle class couple about to retire in West Virginia will not be hit with a monthly premium hike of $2,704, or $32,448 annually.”
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Lower Prescription Drug Costs
The Inflation Reduction Act will lower prescription drug costs by giving Medicare the power to negotiate lower costs, and forces drug companies to give back money when prices rise faster than inflation. The bill also caps annual out-of-pocket prescription drug costs at $2,000 for Medicare enrollees starting in 2025.
As of the end of 2021, there were 443,555 residents in West Virginia enrolled in Medicare coverage. That is almost 25% of the state population - compared with 19% of the total U.S. population.
The Act also will establish a $35 monthly copay cap on insulin for Medicare enrollees. Sharon Care, President of the Board, West Virginians for Affordable Health Care noted, “Unfortunately, a provision to provide the same copay cap protection to people with private insurance was defeated by Republicans in the Senate. However, the state legislature can and should pass this protection for West Virginians.”
Fairer Taxes and Federal Budget Deficit Reduction
The tax package shrinks tax breaks for certain profitable corporations, reduces inefficient tax incentives for companies to buy back their stock, and gives the IRS resources so it can do more to ensure that high-income households and corporations pay what they owe.
The Congressional Budget Office estimated that the Act will reduce federal budget deficits by $300 billion over the next decade. This deficit reduction supports the Federal Reserve’s efforts to bring down inflation.
Key Policies to Help Lower-Income Families Left Out
“While we celebrate this victory, we know that we will need to continue to fight for policies that help West Virginia working families. Sadly, many provisions to help lower-income families failed to be part of the final Senate package. The Senate punted policies that would have addressed high rates of child poverty in West Virginia such as expanding the Child Tax Credit and helping families afford childcare and rent. West Virginia working families will find the struggle to make ends meet grow even harder year after year,” stated Stoll.
The Senate-passed Act also leaves out other important provisions to improve maternal and child health, such as permanently allowing states to provide 12 months of postpartum coverage in Medicaid, guaranteeing that children receive Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) for 12 uninterrupted months, and permanently extending CHIP.
While not directly impacting West Virginia, the Act, as passed in the Senate, also does nothing to make affordable coverage available to the more than 2 million people with incomes below the poverty line who are uninsured because their states have refused to adopt the Medicaid expansion. Closing the coverage gap is a concrete way to help ensure that the more than 800,000 women in the gap — most of whom live in states that have or likely will soon have strict abortion restrictions — have the comprehensive contraception coverage and regular access to health care providers they need to prevent unintended pregnancies, as well as pre-conception care that increases the likelihood of healthy birth outcomes.