President Joe Biden’s American Families Plan could help more than 100,000 Alabama families afford health care coverage, but the cost of the ambitious proposal could make it a hard sell in a divided U.S. Congress.
Biden’s team released detailed facts sheets for each state early Thursday after unveiling the plan in the eve of his 100th day in office. Changes to the Affordable Care Act would enable up to 58,000 Alabamians to get health insurance coverage, according to that breakdown. Another 97,000 would save hundreds of dollars on premiums every year.
The plan would also provide paid leave for families after birth or adoption or to handle family and medical emergencies. Other elements include funding for early childhood education, community college and tax credits.
Biden said the plan would be funded by taxes on investors and high-income Americans. Conservative members of Congress, including those from Alabama, are opposed to the plan.
“The ‘American Families Plan’ is not about helping American families, it is about redefining what it means to be an American family – allowing for big government to infiltrate Alabamians’ homes and daily lives,” said Republican U.S. Sen. Tommy Tuberville, according to WSFA.
About one in 10 people in Alabama lack health insurance. It is one of twelve states that haven’t expanded Medicaid to adults earning $17,000 a year or less. Alabama’s Medicaid program doesn’t cover adults without children and only covers caregivers who earn less than $4,000 a year, the country’s second lowest eligibility limit.
Black Alabamians are less likely than whites to have health insurance. Coverage rates increased after the passage of the Affordable Care Act, but began to fall again during the presidency of Donald Trump.
Biden has made moves to strengthen the Affordable Care Act during his first few months in office. He created a special open enrollment period designed for those who lost jobs during the pandemic.
The American Rescue Plan opened eligibility for subsidies to make health insurance more affordable. It also made some plans less expensive, and even free, for people with low incomes. It also included incentives for states like Alabama that have not expanded Medicaid that would reduce its share of the cost from 10 percent to 5 percent. So far, Alabama officials have not opted to expand and take advantage of the extra funding.
The COVID pandemic has exposed health care inequities in places like Alabama. Although testing and treatment for the virus itself was covered by insurance and federal funds, many of those most at risk for hospitalization and death had underlying conditions and inadequate access to health care.
The plan would not provide all Alabama residents with health coverage if state leaders don’t expand Medicaid. But the new provisions would help families find affordable coverage. The Biden plans reduce the amount families spend on health insurance from 0 to 8.5 percent for at least two years.
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