Consumer news: How to save more money on health insurance costs

Federal income taxes are due Monday, May 17, and now there are some changes, including tax credit eligibility, that can benefit people who have signed up for health insurance through the Affordable Care Act.

The most recent federal stimulus bill included a tax credit that will mean more people can afford health insurance through the ACA. Most people who have a health insurance plan through the ACA Marketplace can save money, according to the experts, and those who did not qualify for tax credits formerly now may be able to receive them.

Jason Spacek, vice president for corporate initiatives at Blue KC, said in some cases, the additional funding available wipes out the cost of the premium. Cost-sharing or premium subsidies may be available to consumers, based on their income level.

Spacek invited people who want to know more information to go to the Blue Cross-Blue Shield of Kansas City website on the ACA changes. Websites include,, and

He said a CMS analysis suggested that the average person could save $50 to $85 a month, “pretty significant savings over what they are already receiving.”

Those who already have a Blue KC ACA individual and family plan can update their Marketplace applications to receive tax credits and reduce their premiums through the rest of the year. The special enrollment period runs through Aug. 15.

People who are enrolled in ACA Marketplace insurance plans can wait until they file taxes next year to get the added premium tax credit, according to Blue Cross-Blue Shield of KC information. If they take action before Aug. 15, they may be able to choose a plan with lower out-of-pocket costs, and retroactive tax credits should still be there when they do their taxes, according to Blue Cross-Blue Shield of KC information.

When ACA first passed, subsidies were available to families with incomes of up to 400 percent of the federal poverty level, around $51,000, Spacek said. Lower incomes had more access to subsidies.

With the passage of the American Rescue Plan Act under the Biden administration in March, the 400 percent poverty level cap was lifted and subsidy access was opened up. Now there is no upper income limit for the federal poverty level, he said.

The new legislation also enriched subsidies at every level, he said.

The new legislation appears to be getting health insurance access out to more people, he said. It is giving health care access to more individuals and making it more affordable to more Americans, he said.

In Kansas, 9.2 percent of the population is uninsured, and in Missouri, 10.1 percent is uninsured, according to statistics from the Kaiser Family Foundation.

In Kansas, 34 percent of the uninsured are now eligible for a free bronze plan after tax credits in 2021, under the ARPA changes, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation analysis. In Missouri, the figure is 27 percent of the uninsured, according to the Kaiser foundation analysis.

Spacek said Blue KC as a local health care insurance provider has a vested interest in committing to providing affordable access to health insurance. A huge part of that is making sure health care and health insurance are available to everyone possible, he said.

His current message is to make sure people know that health care coverage is more affordable than people may think it is. There are many different types of plans, to meet different needs, he added.

Spacek said the biggest barrier to getting health insurance continues to be cost. The subsidies historically have been generous, but if you’re struggling to make ends meet, any cost is prohibitive in starting a policy, he said.

He is optimistic that more people will be getting health insurance now than previously, he said.

Besides addressing cost, they also have to make people aware that the lower costs and subsidies are available. While awareness about ACA has grown, making people aware that there are now more dollars available to offset the cost of coverage is another hurdle, he added.

One provision of ARPA extended the deadline for open enrollment in ACA to Aug. 15. Usually the enrollment period is fall to December. The window now is pretty wide open to give people the opportunity to make coverage choices, he said.

Another important point is that even if people enrolled last fall and got coverage set up, they still have the opportunity to go through and check their plans to see if they now have more access to subsidies, he said.

He said he encouraged individuals to see what is available now that was not available previously.

“They might be pleasantly surprised,” he said.

Spacek said Blue KC also offers the Spira Care line, with access to primary care, behavioral services, X-rays, lab services and other services at one location. There is a Spira Care location in Kansas City, Kansas, at 9800 Troup Ave.

A note on the ACA Marketplace website advises people to call their insurance company before changing plans or adding another person to the plan to see if they will need to start over to meet the new plan’s deductible.

Health savings are available from all health insurance plans, including those from other companies, on the ACA Marketplace.

More information from Blue KC is available at,, and
Individuals also may find out information about how they might qualify for more savings on the ACA Marketplace online at

Many more Kansans can get free or cheap health insurance

Even if you already bought a health plan this year, you may qualify for a steeper discount that you can apply to receive now or claim on your taxes next spring.

by Celia Llopis-Jepsen, KCUR and Kansas News Service

Tens of thousands of uninsured Kansans qualify for enough government subsidies to get free health insurance.

That was the case even before the passage of Congress’ latest stimulus package in March, but now those benefits are available to many more people.

For some, the potential savings for 2021 and 2022 health plans on the Affordable Care Act marketplace are dramatic.

The Kaiser Family Foundation says a 60-year-old Kansan earning $55,000 a year can save more than $7,000 on this year’s premiums.

Most people who already bought plans this year on the ACA, or Obamacare, marketplace can lower their monthly premium or zero it out as part of a two-year expansion of subsidies included in the American Rescue Plan stimulus package.

Even some people who earn more than four times the federal poverty rate will now get financial help.

Here are two quick and easy ways to check whether the stimulus deal affects premiums for you:

• Kaiser Family Foundation’s subsidy calculator
•’s estimate tool

If you already bought your 2021 coverage but now qualify for steeper discounts, the change won’t kick in automatically mid-year. You have to reapply through The deadline to apply is mid-August.

Or you can get the savings retroactively next spring when you file your taxes.

If you bought your health plan this year without going through the federal marketplace, you’ll have to go through the marketplace now to get the subsidies.

Normally, the annual window for buying or switching insurance plans on the federal exchange happens each fall. But people get a second chance this year because of the pandemic.

The new window for 2021 coverage closes Aug. 15. The window for buying 2022 plans opens a few months later, and the expanded subsidies will count toward those, too.

Celia Llopis-Jepsen reports on consumer health for the Kansas News Service. You can follow her on Twitter @celia_LJ or email her at celia (at) kcur (dot) org.
The Kansas News Service is a collaboration of KCUR, Kansas Public Radio, KMUW and High Plains Public Radio focused on health, the social determinants of health and their connection to public policy.
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Governor signs bill providing low-cost loans to families, businesses experiencing high utility bills

Gov. Laura Kelly has signed a bill to provide low-cost loans to Kansans experiencing increased utility bills because of the extreme cold temperatures in February.

“Since extremely cold temperatures hit our state in February, my administration has worked with local and national partners to find solutions to provide relief to Kansas families and businesses experiencing surging utility costs,” Gov. Kelly said. “This legislation is a critical step in our continued response – and I thank the Legislature and State Treasurer Lynn Rogers for their collaborative effort to get this bill to my desk.”

Senate Bill 86 establishes the Kansas extraordinary utility costs loan deposit program.

The loan program will be administered by the Kansas State Treasurer.
“I want to thank Governor Kelly for signing this bipartisan legislation into law today. This is critical and necessary for Kansas communities and businesses to fully recover from the extraordinary weather event in February as well as the pandemic we continue to endure,” State Treasurer Lynn Rogers said. “My staff and I are ready to move forward with rolling out the low-cost loan programs the first week of May.”

Senate Bill 86 is online at