(Publisher’s note: InsiderAdvantage occasionally publishes columns on public policy issues from Georgia candidates for state or federal office regardless of party.)  

Nabilah Islam

Georgia is a diverse state with an increasingly unique population. This diversity is part of our strength and it’s important to celebrate our differences while highlighting the things we have in common. We all want strong education for our children, good-paying jobs that allow us not just to survive but to thrive, safe neighborhoods for our families and the ability to afford quality necessities like health care and housing.   

While barriers to health care access have been around for quite some time, the unprecedented challenges of the pandemic amplified the need for improved access to health care. This is still a great need in so many of our communities, one that continues to unnecessarily burden working-class Georgia families. Everyone deserves the assurance that they can get the care they need without being overwhelmed by cost.   

When it comes to the cost of health care, we must especially keep in mind the need for improved access for historically underprivileged communities and lower-income families who struggle to afford insurance. Fortunately, there have been steps in the right direction to make progress on this issue, namely through a key provision passed in the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) last year.  

The passage of ARPA allowed more than 127,000 of Georgia’s uninsured residents to qualify for tax credits relief in 2021. With a wider group of Americans gaining access to affordable care last year, many people — some for the first time in their lives — were finally granted access to quality care and insurance they could afford by applying federal subsidies to plans on the marketplace.  

I cannot underscore enough the substantial and necessary relief this has provided to so many Georgia residents. Whether it’s a check-up for your children, addressing a sudden ailment or getting life-saving surgery, affordable health coverage means more people can receive the care they need without confronting burdensome obstacles and delays that can stem from a lack of health coverage.  

The success story of these insurance subsidies may very well come to an unfortunate ending, though, due to their impending expiration date. The premium subsidies that helped bring millions of Americans into the insurance marketplace are set to sunset at the end of the year, potentially rendering thousands of Georgians unable to afford health insurance and care. 

Thankfully, a clear solution lies the hands of Congress right now to avoid this federal program cliff: making the subsidies expanded last year permanent. 

However, time is running out. Our congressional delegation in Washington will soon prepare to leave for August recess, which means that action needs to be taken right now to solidify the tax credits before it’s too late. With a myriad of legislative priorities and election season on the horizon, I would encourage our lawmakers to avoid tabling this critical issue any longer and ensure that it receives swift attention before the summer recess when it will get buried beneath other activity.  

ARPA’s premium tax credits have yielded significant, real-world benefits for people in our state who are relying on solutions like this to access affordable health care now and in the future. If we allow them to expire, we will be weakening our public health landscape at a time when recovery from the pandemic is still fragile. What’s most alarming is that Georgia is estimated to have the second-highest increase in the number of uninsured people in 2023 if premium tax credits expire.   

Congress must preserve affordable health care for our citizens. Luckily, we have health care advocates in the U.S. Senate who have the power to help. We are grateful to Sens. Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock for their adamant and vocal support of these tax credits. They were critical allies in helping to pass ARPA and expand health care subsidies in 2021, and now we hope they will help ensure they’re made permanent.   

Nabilah Islam was raised in Gwinnett County, is the daughter of working-class immigrants from Bangladesh, a Georgia State University graduate and a state Senate candidate. 

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