The annual open-enrollment period for health insurance plans secured through the Affordable Care Act's marketplace begins on November 1 and runs through January 15. For drivers and owner-ops, this year represents an opportunity to capitalize on what might be the last big cash grab of the great pandemic: health care subsidies.
A relative few owner-operators in Overdrive's audience -- 16% -- have purchased insurance through the ACA exchanges to date, according to recent polling below. The largest portion of respondents (34%) reported they weren't covered by insurance at all at this point, while the second largest group of respondents (31%) had secured a policy elsewhere, whether a private off-exchange plan or one among a bevy of new "health ministry" cost-share group-based plans.
According to Marc Ballard, overseeing the National Association of Independent Truckers' health- and other-insurance efforts, the American Rescue Plan not only included stimulus payments, unemployment boosts, and childcare tax credits -- it also made this year a historically good time to get health care on the ACA exchanges.
"This year, more than any other year, is different in that more independent drivers are going to be able to afford health insurance than ever before," said Ballard. "Up to this year, based on your family income, people got what’s called subsidies that helped them pay for their insurance. If you made too much money, you didn’t qualify for subsidies."
Ballard's organization works with about 15,000 truckers, and he's personally seen them struggle to get coverage under the old system. For many truckers making around $60,000 a year, they simply wouldn't qualify for meaningful subsidies in 2013 or 2014.
Those drivers would have to pay "thousands a month for a family" to provide health care without subsidies, Ballard said.
But now, that's changed.