By Michael Pagan, Teaneck Township Councilman
New Jersey’s first COVID-19 case was confirmed in Bergen County and unfortunately Teaneck was an epicenter during the beginning of the pandemic. We all recall going into quarantine all too well. To date, more than 95,000 residents of Bergen County have had confirmed cases, more than any other county in the state — and Teaneck’s township manager recently announced new mandatory safety protocols in public buildings because of a troubling surge of the Delta variant. Sadly, we are not out of the woods with this virus, and now is not the time to end crucial subsidies that help New Jersey residents pay for vital health coverage.
These subsidies are tax credits that were expanded and extended earlier this year when Congress passed the American Rescue Plan (ARPA). This crucial relief helps lower the cost of care for families struggling to afford coverage in the federal marketplace. It has been a lifesaving program. Yet this assistance will soon expire unless key leaders in Congress step up and help protect them.
Luckily for the 5th Congressional District of New Jersey, our Congressman, Josh Gottheimer, continues to be a decisive vote in expanding these lifesaving subsidies. His support has been crucial to ensuring that working families here and across the country aren’t forced to pay more that they have to for quality health care.
These subsidies have been enormously successful. More than 880,000 residents across the state are now enrolled in federal marketplace coverage. More than 100,000 of New Jersey’s uninsured residents were newly eligible for tax credit relief once ARPA took effect. If subsidies are made permanent, more than 88,000 uninsured people in New Jersey could have access to affordable, quality health care through next year.
The same is true in many states across the country. With the subsidies in ARPA, nearly 15 million Americans who did not have health insurance were able to save money on insurance premiums. But unfortunately now these Americans are at risk of losing their health coverage –even as deadly variants of the Coronavirus continue to spread.
In New Jersey, we’ve come too far in our fight against the virus to risk going backward. As a Teaneck Councilman, I’ve stood with our medical professionals and community leaders as New Jersey dealt with wave after wave of COVID-19 outbreaks.
In total, almost 950,000 cases of covid have been diagnosed in New Jersey since the pandemic began. An average of 1,005 people in New Jersey are hospitalized daily as a result of COVID-19. These hospitalizations are scary for friends and for family. They can also be costly. This would be the worst time to make health care more expensive for families across New Jersey.
According to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, failing to extend these subsidies could raise premiums by $600 a year. In some cases, the costs could be even higher according to recent research conducted by America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP). That study found that a 46-year-old earning just under $42,000 a year could see premiums increase by more than $1,200 a year. A 55-year-old couple earning just over $70,000 together could be forced to pay $761 more per month. That’s more than $9,000 more a year just to afford health coverage. These extra expenses would only make it harder to access basic health coverage.
As a state and as a nation, we should be doing everything we can to go in the opposite direction. Ensuring every American’s access to basic health care has been a fight waged for generations. Yet never has this goal been more important than during the global pandemic that continues to take lives every single day.
It’s time for Congress to help make these lifesaving subsidies permanent or at least extend them until a permanent solution is found. These federal subsidies help millions of Americans across New Jersey and the country gain access to quality health coverage that they normally wouldn’t be able to have. Please contact your members of Congress and encourage them to support this important initiative so countless families won’t lose their health coverage during the pandemic.
Michael Pagan is a councilman in Teaneck, New Jersey. Elected in 2020, he is the township’s first Latino councilman. He also serves as a public information officer for Bergen County.