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Health insurance savings possible for many more owner-ops after American Rescue Plan legislation

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Updated Jul 19, 2021

On April Fool's Day last week, there was something of a sea change in individual health insurance costs for the self-employed that's gone mostly unexamined in the trucking press to date – increased access to insurance premium subsidies put in place for at least the next two years for plans purchased through the Affordable Care Act's health-insurance exchanges. Around 20% of owner-operators in Overdrive's audience early this year reported purchasing such a plan for their health insurance. For them, and also for any new plan purchasers there, there's a high likelihood of a better deal than was available before the change. 

"We’re in kind of an unprecedented spot with the ACA," said Marc Ballard, an insurance agent working closely with the National Association of Independent Truckers' program, which among other things serves as an avenue for members and other owner-operators to the exchange, operated in collaboration with the Healthy Halo Insurance Services concierge. Ballard referred to the open enrollment period the American Rescue Plan Act opened from now through Aug. 15 for those currently enrolled and new buyers to take advantage of the ARPA's new premium benefits. That effectively extended another special enrollment period that had been ongoing for the federal exchange and some state exchanges put in place early in the year.  

About premium changes, though, Healthy Halo CEO Brent Heurter said that what the COVID-stimulus legislation has done is put the ACA "on steroids. Pretty much anybody who doesn't get their health insurance through an employer – like your average independent owner-operator – or have Medicare now qualifies for substantial help to pay for their premiums, whether they already have insurance or not." 

owner-operator health insurance pie chartThis polling data,

That could apply to a large number of owner-operators, as Heurter noted, backed up by Overdrive's own polling data (see above) -- a sizable majority (57% together) either do not currently have insurance or have purchased ACA exchange plans. 

[Related: Health-share plans prove to be attractive insurance aternative for owner-ops and small fleets]

What the legislation did was, at least for the next two years, kill off what watchers have called a "subsidy cliff," a level of income above which help on premiums simply wasn't available to purchasers on the exchanges. That income level, 400% of the federal poverty line, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation, was right around $51,000 annually for a single individual, well less than the almost $70K the average owner-op brings in annually. ARPA's capping of exchange Silver plan premium costs at 8.5% of income, no matter how high the income, delivers substantial benefits in particular to older Americans with incomes up to $20K and a little more above the old "subsidy cliff," KFF found in its analysis of how the changes apply to an individual aged 60 at various income levels. (You can find that analysis with a chart that also toggles between ages 27 and 40 as well at this link.)

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