Health insurance companies will soon start charging people a fee to help them access care and prevent their premiums from rising, a key part of a federal health care law that has expanded coverage for millions of people.
The move comes amid a debate about the cost of covering health insurance for millions who are not eligible for subsidies to buy coverage on the state and federal level.
“The new federal health insurance program will allow health insurance companies to charge a fee that will help low-income and middle-class Americans afford their coverage,” the Department of Health and Human Services said in a statement on Thursday.
It is a change in the law that allows insurers to charge people with lower incomes up to 20% of their income, the highest ever in the country.
Under the Affordable Care Act, most people who buy health insurance through the federal exchange must buy coverage, either through a state-run exchange or through an employer-based plan.
People who do not qualify for subsidies and don’t have employer-sponsored coverage can still buy private insurance through state-sponsored exchanges, but those will not be able to charge higher premiums.
“It is not the intent of this law to impose a fee on individuals who do choose to buy insurance through an exchange,” the statement said.
Instead, the agency is targeting a “fee for participation” in the health insurance marketplaces, the statement added.
In the meantime, the government will continue to collect money from insurers to help subsidize low- and moderate-income Americans.
The administration is expected to announce a new fee in the coming weeks, though details about how the money will be spent will not emerge until late next year.