Some Consumers Can Get Health Insurance For $1, Officials Say

Oregon health officials are encouraging residents who lack health insurance to explore buying coverage via the state’s insurance marketplace, where they may be able to get a commercial policy for a premium of just $1 a month after federal tax credits.

A special enrollment period runs July 1-Aug. 15 to sign up with an insurer via the marketplace and get the tax credits. The enrollment period is aimed at people who have received or qualified for at least one week of unemployment benefits this year, said the Oregon Department of Consumer and Business Services, which oversees the marketplace system.

Oregonians who don’t receive insurance from their employer and are not enrolled in government-run plans such as Medicaid and Medicare need to buy coverage individually from commercial insurers. Buying through the state-run marketplace system allows individuals to claim federal income tax credits to offset some of the premium cost. The amount of the credit is based on the income of the applicant.

The federal American Rescue Plan law, enacted earlier this year, provided additional tax credits, effective April 1. Now, starting July 1, even more credits are available, based on whether the individual has received or been eligible for unemployment benefits, the state said. All told, the credits can reduce the price of a policy to $1 a month, the state said.

For an individual to know whether they are eligible for the credits, they must apply via HealthCare.gov. Or they can visit OregonHealthCare.gov/WindowShop, which offers a snapshot of the latest tax credits available.

People who already have insurance via the exchange must log into the accounts and reapply if they want to claim the additional credits based on their unemployment status.

Relatively few Oregonians buy coverage through the marketplace. In 2020, nearly 141,000 Oregonians chose health plans for 2021 through the marketplace, the state says. 

Still, the online tool is crucial for people who aren’t on employer-provided plans or Medicare, and don’t qualify for the Oregon Health Plan, the state’s Medicaid program for low-income residents.

In 2020, more than 70%  of Oregonians who picked a plan through the marketplace received a federal tax credit to help cover the premium. The average credit was $450 a month. The credits are available to individuals making under roughly $51,000 or a family of four making under roughly $105,000.

Traditionally, people buy on the marketplace during the annual open enrollment in the winter, or when the person goes through a significant change, such as loss of a job. But the federal government has opened special enrollment periods due to the hardships created by the COVID-19 pandemic.

You can reach Christian Wihtol at [email protected]lundreport.org.

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