U.S. Rep. Brendan Boyle was part of a virtual news conference on Thursday calling for Senate action to make healthcare more affordable.
Boyle joined For Our Future PA, Protect Our Care Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania Health Access Network and Family Friendly Pennsylvania on the Zoom call. Two individuals, one from Bucks County and the other from Allentown, also discussed their concerns with healthcare costs. Rep. Susan Wild was supposed to be part of the news conference, but was not.
Protect Our Care reports that the premium tax credits included in the American Rescue Plan lowered the cost of healthcare coverage for almost 375,000 Pennsylvanians.
On June 28, 14 Democratic governors from across the country, including Gov. Tom Wolf, sent a letter to congressional leadership, urging them to extend the enhanced premium tax credits that are set to expire at the end of this year. Democrats are hoping for an extension, since people will be signing up for 2023 coverage at the start of November, just when voters head to the polls for the midterm elections.
Boyle fears eligible Pennsylvanians will experience a “dramatic increase in their premiums,” without an extension.
Meanwhile, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer is reportedly negotiating with West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin on a deal intended to lower prescription drug costs by allowing Medicare to negotiate the price of prescription drugs with pharmaceutical companies, cap senior citizens’ out-of-pocket drug costs and penalize companies that raise prescriptions faster than inflation.
“It’s time for the Senate to act now,” Boyle said.
In response to a question from For Our Future PA director Ashley McBride, Boyle said he’s spoken to constituents about the high costs of prescription drugs.
“It really touches almost every neighborhood of my congressional district,” he said.
As for the premium tax credits, Antoinette Kraus, executive director of the Pennsylvania Health Access Network, said they have helped lower costs by 9 percent and reduced the Pennsylvania uninsured rate to 5.4 percent.
Kraus said costs will go up, on average, $1,000, or 11 percent, per person per year for those 375,000 or so Pennsylvanians who’ve benefited from the premium tax credits, if the credits are not extended.
Kraus is hopeful for a vote before a month-long congressional recess beginning in August. In the meantime, she urged people to contact Sen. Pat Toomey to tell him to support provisions keeping healthcare costs from continuing to rise.
For Our Future Pennsylvania provided statistics showing that without an extension, monthly premiums would increase to pre-American Rescue Plan levels. A 45-year-old Pennsylvanian earning $60,000 could see a monthly premium increase of $89. A 60-year-old Pennsylvania couple with a household income of $75,000 could see a monthly premium increase of $1,402. A Pennsylvania family of four with a household income of $120,000 could see a monthly premium increase of $605.
Also, an estimated 39,000 Pennsylvanians will lose their health coverage and become uninsured if Congress doesn’t extend premium tax credits. ••