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August 20, 2021

Trone visits AHEC West, talks health insurance

Credit: Cumberland Times-News, Brandon Glass

CUMBERLAND, Md. — U.S. Rep. David Trone stopped by AHEC West Thursday as part of his swing through Allegany and Garrett counties to talk about the impact the American Rescue Plan is having on health care insurance affordability.

The congressman’s office released numbers stating that 26,000 people within Maryland’s 6th congressional district have already purchased health insurance plans on the individual market with the Affordable Care Act and would see savings under the American Rescue Plan. There are another 25,000 individuals in the district who are uninsured and eligible, and of those 21,000 could have access with no premium.

“We’ve got to figure out how to get those 21,000 people that are now eligible because people don’t think about the rescue plan changing the game for health care insurance, but it did,” said Trone. “Too often we look at the policy and look at a bunch of numbers that don’t mean a damn thing. We want to talk about how it’s helped people.”

Three members of the community who have seen the benefits from the changes the rescue plan has made to health care talked about their experiences and shared some suggestions for improvement.

“Long story short, best insurance I’ve ever had at the cheapest cost I’ve ever paid,” said Tim Martin, who has been self employed for most of his working adult life and paid for insurance like it, and eventually found costs previous to the rescue plan astronomical. “The situation I had that may be a suggestion: when you’re self employed you don’t know if you’re going to make $80,000 or $30,000 or what have you — my suggestion would be if there could be some kind of a sliding scale from zero income to 100 rather than a cutoff.”

David Stewart, AHEC West program director, followed Martin’s point and said one of the most important issues with the Affordable Care Act is that it is formula based and has shock absorbers for insurance companies where they don’t lose money, but doesn’t have anything similar for consumers.

“If you’re between the ages of 60 and 65, it’s really difficult (to navigate the insurance marketplace),” said Charlene Smith, who found insurance through AHEC West. “I am a Type 2 diabetic and dependent on insulin. I can’t go without insurance …”

Trone asked for opinions on ways to inform the public about new eligibility due to the rescue plan.

District resident Larry Keller suggested having pastors and school counselors mention it to people as well as suggesting the DMV ask about signing up for health insurance similar to how they ask about registering to vote.

“Insurance has got to be a right for everybody,” said Trone.