Connecting Alaska to the World And the World to Alaska
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Medical Insurance Marketplace Open Until August

Division of Insurance

Alaskans without medical insurance have an extended deadline to sign up at the federal Insurance Marketplace. A part of the American Rescue Plan passed by Congress last month extends subsidies, making medical insurance more affordable. For many Alaskans, it can be free.

If you missed the very brief enrollment period last year, or if you have lost your job recently, you can have a “do over” for signing up for federally-subsidized medical insurance. The federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services is extending the Affordable Care Act enrollment period to August 15.

“It’s the longest we’ve seen.”

That’s Lori Wing-Heir, Alaska’s Director of Insurance. She says normally the enrollment period is about two months long.

“And of course, ours closed December 15, and re-opened when the Biden administration got sworn in. And now they’ve extended it out till August 15.”

With the passage of the American Rescue Act, the parameters for buying insurance in the federal marketplace – on the website -- are also more generous.

"It used to be 400% of the federal poverty level. Now they changed it to 8.5% of your total income. So there are some healthy subsidies out there for people.”

At the end of 2019, the Division reported only 202,637 Alaskans insured. That’s only 29%. The Division’s annual report says the cost of health insurance is the biggest barrier. Wing-Heir says the pandemic made it much worse.

The Department of Labor and Workplace Development tracked 23,000 lost jobs from January 2020 to January 2021. 3,600 of those jobs are in the Interior. Many of those folks lost employer-provided medical insurance.

So she is encouraging them to turn to the website to look for insurance that is subsidized by an Advance Premium Tax Credit  -- where the federal government pays for most or all of the cost of the insurance – depending on your income. Wing-Heir says about 84% of Alaskans who buy in the individual market receive a federal Advance Premium Tax Credit (APTC) subsidy.

Before the American Rescue Plan was passed, people could get the tax credit only if their income did not exceed 400 percent of the poverty level – that’s $51,520 for an individual.

That’s a lot lower than the median household income in Fairbanks. But under the new law, folks would not have to pay more than 8.5 percent of their income on health insurance premiums. The new law has that provision for the next two years, as we recover from the pandemic.

So, going to the Marketplace website, using the 2019, pre-pandemic, Median Household Income for Fairbanks North Star Borough -  that’s $76,992 for a household with two adults and two children - he website calculates a tax credit of $837.12 per month. That brings the monthly premium for some plans down to zero.

Wing-Heir says all the plans provide the same essential health benefits, but you may pay more in premiums to get a lower deductible, or lower co-pay.

Alaska is one of 36 states that use the federal platform. 15 more states run their own marketplaces, and a lot of them also extended the sign-up time.

In Fairbanks, the Interior Community Health Center routinely helps people sign up for insurance. They have a staff of Certified Application Counselors who can help folks navigate the application process. Their phone number is 458-1556.