Time is running out for older, uninsured adults in Illinois to get affordable health insurance
In Illinois, as many as 340,000 older adults ages 50 to 64 could potentially be helped by a special enrollment period that ends Aug. 15.
The coronavirus pandemic highlighted the importance of having access to affordable health coverage. Yet nearly 29 million Americans did not have insurance prior to the pandemic, and that number has increased significantly in the past year, as millions more lost their jobs and employer-based care, or left the workforce to care for their families.
Finding affordable health insurance is particularly challenging for adults ages 50 to 64, who often face higher premiums that make the costs unaffordable for many. Adults in this age range who purchase coverage on their own pay up to three times more than other age groups.
Two new policy changes could help those millions of uninsured Americans get health coverage at a price they can afford.
The federal government has opened a special enrollment period now through August 15, when anyone without insurance can purchase it through healthcare.gov. Perhaps even more importantly, a recent provision of the American Rescue Plan Act will give extra financial assistance for the next two years to people purchasing insurance on the ACA Marketplace.
In Illinois, as many as 340,000 older adults ages 50 to 64 could potentially be helped by this special enrollment period and expanded premium tax credits, including the 7.5% of older adults in Illinois who are uninsured and could be eligible for coverage through sources like the Health Insurance Marketplace or Medicaid. Many Illinoisans could now pay as little as $0 for their premiums, while others could save up to thousands of dollars a year. A new analysis from AARP’s Public Policy Institute found that nearly half of adults ages 50 to 64 in the U.S. who purchase their own health insurance faced unaffordable health coverage in 2019, compared to only 30% of younger adults. For example, a 64-year-old earning $49,000 a year would have faced a premium of 30% of their income — a price tag that would put health insurance out of reach for many.
Uninsured rates are disproportionately high in communities of color. Across the U.S., Hispanic/Latino and Native Americans in particular have been among those most impacted: 20% of older adults in these groups are uninsured, almost triple the rate for non-Hispanic whites. This includes 16.3% of Hispanic/Latino adults ages 50 to 64 in Illinois who are uninsured.
No American should be cut off from the opportunity to live a healthy life. AARP Illinois encourages all state residents who are uninsured or struggling to afford health insurance to visit www.healthcare.gov for information about how to get more affordable health insurance during this two-year period. People who already receive financial assistance are likely eligible for even more help. For those who were not eligible for financial assistance through the Marketplace before, check again — you may be eligible now. In addition, anyone receiving unemployment insurance in 2021 will not have to pay premiums for ACA Marketplace plans.
As we continue fighting for older adults to have access to affordable health care, AARP is offering additional resources and information about the special enrollment period and new subsidies at www.aarp.org/ACA. Together, we can further help reduce disparities and address the problems of health care costs.
Bob Gallo is state director of AARP Illinois.
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