CONCORD, NH — Last week, the Supreme Court upheld the Affordable Care Act. Again. This comes as the Biden administration announced that a record 31 million people now have coverage thanks to the Affordable Care Act, including 44,228 Granite Staters enrolled in ACA marketplace coverage and 69,814 enrolled in Medicaid expansion. Of those enrolled in a marketplace plan, 5,425 enrolled between February 15 and May 31, 2021, nearly double the number of Granite Staters who enrolled during the same period in 2020.
The national enrollment numbers in ACA marketplace coverage and Medicaid expansion are “record highs,” according to new data from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. These enrollment numbers reinforce the resiliency of the ACA ahead of the Supreme Court’s pending decision in the California vs. Texas case. The numbers also highlight the continued need for the marketplace and Medicaid expansion as New Hampshire and the US rebound from the COVID-19 recession.
“These New Hampshire enrollment numbers are further proof that the ACA works, is resilient, and that Americans want it and need it,” said Protect Our Care New Hampshire State Director Jayme Simoes. “We need to continue building on the law to reduce costs and extend the ACA’s success to the next frontier in health care — lowering the cost of prescription drugs.”
Read stories from Granite Staters about their healthcare experiences below.
The American Rescue Plan, which passed in March and provided $1.9 trillion in COVID-19 relief funds, also expands access to quality, affordable health care in New Hampshire and across the country. New Hampshire’s Congressional Delegation all voted in favor of the relief bill. These Democrats have also been integral to protecting ACA coverage and support further legislation to make healthcare more affordable.
New Hampshire Sens. Maggie Hassan and Jeanne Shaheen, and Congressman Chris Pappas and Congresswoman Ann McLane Kuster have come to understand the importance of affordable healthcare access through hundreds of conversations with constituents about their struggles with the healthcare system, pharmaceutical costs, and private insurance companies. While progress has been made in expanding access, more still needs to be done to make healthcare and medications more affordable to all New Hampshire residents.
Here are a few stories from New Hampshire residents about how the ACA has helped them:
Jennifer is a diabetic who requires a number of medications to stay feeling well. Her husband, in his 70s, continues to work and had private insurance that covers much of the cost of her medications. Jennifer said it would cost her more than $500 a month for one prescription, Trulicity, if she did not have coverage through her husband.
This medication, taken in addition to daily insulin, has been a game-changer for Jennifer’s health.
“It really keeps me very even and even though it’s one shot a week, it's very expensive, said Jennifer. “My husband works and he loves his job, but if he were not working and we were only receiving Social Security and our pensions, I would not be able to afford it.”
Daniel has been a chef most of his adult life, but untreated chronic health issues often kept him back. Because he could not afford private insurance, he let health problems go untreated, leading to more severe health issues and even limiting his ability to work at times.
In his mid-20s Daniel began suffering from migraines. When they happened on the job it made it difficult for him to work. He eventually got insurance through the ACA marketplace.
“Since having access to a network of doctors, I have a greater sense of security,” said Daniel.” I now have the medicine I need to continue working if I do have migraine episodes, preventative systems in place, and my employer knows through doctors’ notes about my needs. It's allowed me a greater sense of opportunity and freedom.”
Because he has a complicated mix of health issues, he needed coordinated care from a series of physicians, something that was unavailable to him when he went to the emergency room for care. Today, he has the care he needs, thanks to insurance coverage through a marketplace plan.
“I had a few severe allergic reactions and if I wasn’t able to get the medication to treat them with the insurance I now have, we wouldn’t be having this conversation,” said Daniel.
Portsmouth resident and owner of Kilwin’s chocolate, fudge and ice cream shop
Janette is a small business owner, cancer survivor and caretaker of her adult son with special needs. Through her chocolate and ice cream shop Kilwin’s in Portsmouth’s Market Square, she has been able to provide health insurance to her entire family. With each member of her family with specific health needs, insurance is essential, said Janette, despite the $30,000 annual price tag.
“I work for about half the year just to pay for health insurance,” she said.
Janette does offer health coverage to her full-time employees, but nearly all have opted to purchase insurance on the marketplace because it offers lower costs. If those employees were on the company plan, it would be a “huge amount of money” for the business.
While she thinks the ACA could go further in helping people afford healthcare, Janette said it should at least be preserved because it is helping so many people.
“It’s helping people like me,” she said. “Iif I had to insure all my full time employees, I would have to raise prices.”
Former Delivery Service Partner
Jamie is a 26 Army veteran and attorney who moved to New Hampshire in 2019 to work in leadership at a Hooksett-based delivery service partner. As a veteran, he has long been involved with supporting veterans and focused on making this company a veteran-friendly business. Jamie also became a leader in hiring Spanish-speaking drivers who became some of the top drivers in his fleet.
By working closely with veterans and people who did not speak English as their first language, Jamie quickly learned these underserved communities were not getting the care they needed. Veteran health services are complicated, and for most, they cannot access care through the VA. As for the Spanish-speaking drivers, all legally able to live and work in the US, they feared harassment and had a mistrust of both doctors and government programs which kept them from going to the doctors, let alone signing up for insurance.
Insurance was provided at Jaimie’s company, but at $500 a month, drivers tended to enroll only when overtime hours--and the extra pay that comes with it--were plentiful.
Jamie believes lower costs overall and outreach to underserved communities are needed to improve what the ACA offers today.
“I wish the ACA could help facilitate lower income people, homeless, and other language speakers to sign up more easily,” he said.