Vallejo Times-Herald: Thompson, Eshoo, propose Fair Access to Health Care Act

Mar 17, 2017
News Articles

Rachel Raskin-Zrihen | Vallejo Times-Herald

In an attempt to make ObamaCare more accessible to those living in more expensive parts of the county, Rep. Mike Thompson and another Bay Area Congress member on Friday, reintroduced the Fair Access to Health Care Act.

Thompson, who represents all or part of Solano, Napa, Contra Costa, Lake and Sonoma counties, and Anna Eshoo, whose 18th District is located between San Francisco, Santa Cruz and San Jose, introduced legislation to expand the eligibility for premium tax credits for people living in high-cost areas who purchase health insurance through the federal and state exchanges set up by the Affordable Care Act, also called OmabaCare.

“No one should have to go without the healthcare they need,” Thompson said in a statement. “The ACA has been tremendously helpful for many working families, but some hardworking Americans in particularly high-cost areas still struggle to afford health insurance. They shouldn’t be left behind. I’m proud to work with Rep. Eshoo to help more Americans get the care they need.”

ObamaCare has helped lower income Americans buy private health insurance with subsidies adjusted to their income level, but this doesn’t help those in expensive areas, Eshoo said.

“While this is tremendously helpful to millions of individuals and families, there are others in high-cost areas who cannot benefit because the threshold to qualify for subsidies does not account for the high cost of living,” she said. “The Fair Access to Health Care Act ties health insurance subsidies to the cost of living of a geographic area instead of to the national federal poverty level. In doing so, we can improve the ACA by expanding access to health insurance, help the middle class and improve our nation’s health.”

As it stands now, the ACA allows those making between 138 percent and 400 percent of the federal poverty level to qualify for premium tax credits to subsidize their health insurance through the ACA’s exchanges. At this level, an individual making up to $45,960 and a family of four making up to $94,200 qualify for premium tax credits.

However, the income threshold used to determine eligibility doesn’t take into account the cost of living for different geographic areas, the lawmakers said.

“A family living in New York City or San Francisco is treated the same as a family living in areas with a lower cost of living,” the pair said in a news release. “The Fair Access to Health Care Act would allow the premium tax credits offered through the ACA to be increased proportionally based on an area’s cost of living.”

The bill gives the IRS and Census Bureau the authority and leeway to determine the variable income limits, Thompson spokeswoman Amanda Schoen said. It ignores the attempt being made by President Donald Trump and some Republicans to repeal ObamaCare, which they insist is crumbling under its own weight, and replace it with something more to their liking.

“The Congressman is committed to strengthening the ACA and bringing more people into our healthcare system,” she said. “The Republicans’ ACA replacement, on the other hand, would leave millions without coverage and is still considered dead on arrival, so the Congressman is not interested in making his proposal part of their current bill.”