On Tuesday, August 16, President Biden signed the Inflation Reduction Act into law. This is a landmark law that will have dramatic benefits for the health of our nation.
By now, most Americans are familiar with the name of this law, but many don’t know that it may have a direct impact on their lives. There are several measures within the Inflation Reduction Act that can save you money, but there are also huge investments to improve your health and clean the air outside.
Why Does the Lung Association Care About this Bill?
The Inflation Reduction Act is the culmination of more than a year and a half of advocacy by the Lung Association and our volunteers, as well as many other organizations. Clean air, a healthy climate and affordable healthcare has been a part of mission for years and we have been urging Congress to make investments in those priorities for months as they negotiated this law.
This law comes at a time when lung health is more important than ever. The nation is still dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic and millions of Americans are at risk of losing access to quality and affordable healthcare coverage. Additionally, intense wildfires, record-breaking heat, extreme flooding and worsened air quality, all fueled by climate change, are impacting the country.
This landmark law represents the largest action the U.S. has is ever taken to tackle climate change and includes significant steps on improving access to quality and affordable healthcare. These are big goals, so how does this impact you, the consumer?
Millions of Americans Will Keep their Healthcare
The Inflation Reduction Act keeps healthcare affordable for millions of people by extending the enhanced advance premium tax credits through the end of 2025. These tax credits help lower- and middle-income individuals and families afford health insurance purchased through the Affordable Care Act marketplaces (i.e. HealthCare.gov). Because of this measure, an estimated 3.4 million individuals will keep their health insurance and over 10 million individuals won’t see their premiums rise.
In addition, this law helps seniors better afford their often-pricey prescription medications. It caps the out-of-pocket drug costs at $2,000 per year for Medicare recipients and allows them to pay that money over the course of the year instead of all at once. This is especially important for COPD, lung cancer and other lung disease patients who have very expensive medications.
The law also ensures Medicaid & Medicare beneficiaries’ access to recommended vaccines, as it included two important bills, the Helping Adults Protect Immunity (HAPI) Act and the Protecting Seniors Act. The HAPI Act ensures that all Medicaid enrollees will have access to recommended vaccines at no cost. Previously, recommended vaccines were only required to be covered for Medicaid expansion enrollees. The Protecting Seniors Act removes copayments for CDC-recommended vaccines covered under Medicare Part D. Before this law went into effect, only a few vaccines covered under Medicare Part B (such as influenza and pneumococcal pneumonia) were covered for patients without copayments. Ensuring greater access and removing financial barriers for recommended vaccines is important to protect the public’s health against contagious viruses.
Benefits to Clean Our Air and Address Climate Change
The Inflation Reduction Act is the biggest federal investment in addressing climate change that the United States has ever made. Measures within the law could have an immediate impact on air quality in America, including in some communities who have long faced disproportionate levels of deadly pollution. These measures could also save Americans money by investing in more efficient energy.
Here are 4 pieces of the Inflation Reduction Act that could benefit you:
1. Clean Energy and More Efficient Appliances at Home: The law extends and expands tax credits for renewable energy sources like wind and solar. It also includes rebates and tax credits for replacing older technologies with more efficient ones, such as a heat pump, central air conditioning system or an induction range. The Inflation Reduction Act improves and revamps some old programs, like one that credits homeowners for the cost of installing energy-efficient insulation, windows, doors, etc., and another one to install systems that use solar, wind, geothermal, or other alternative power sources to provide energy in the home. Looking to increase your energy efficiency in your home? The bill will reimburse you for a home energy audit that will provide you with a plan to increase efficiency. This will not only help you save money on home energy costs, but it also reduces both indoor and outdoor air pollution.
2. Cleaner Cars for More People and Cleaner Air for All: Through this new law, people under of a certain income level will be able to access a credit when purchasing an electric vehicle - $7,500 for a new electric car and $4,000 for a used one. In addition, there was $1 billion invested in deploying zero-emission heavy-duty vehicles like trucks, buses, and school buses and the United States Postal Service will get funds to transition their fleet to zero-emission vehicles. Live near a port? Three billion dollars is set aside to clean up emissions from ports, which tend to be pollution hot spots due to the equipment, vehicles and ships that operate at the port.
3. Better Air Quality for the Most-Impacted Communities: The Inflation Reduction Act contains a significant amount of money to help address environmental injustices and address health inequities. Our State of the Air Report shows that people of color were 3.6 times as likely than white people to live in areas with the most unhealthy air. The law includes a greenhouse gas reduction fund that will help deploy clean energy and pollution control technologies in low-income and disadvantaged communities, as well as funding for air pollution monitoring in disadvantaged and low-income communities. Environmental and climate justice block grants included in the law will provide funding for community-led projects that can include pollution monitoring, mitigating health risks from extreme weather events and increasing public engagement during federal rulemaking processes.
4. Helps Address Climate Polluting Methane and VOCs: The new law holds the oil and gas industry accountable for reducing methane emissions that escape from their wells. Methane is a potent greenhouse gas with more than 80 times the warming potential than carbon. When oil and gas are extracted and transported from wells, other pollutants leak out too, including volatile organic compounds (VOCs). VOCs form ozone and can cause cancer, affect the nervous system, or cause birth defects. People who live near oil and gas wells are especially vulnerable and their health can be disproportionately harmed by VOCs.
This bill is a major step forward, but there is still work to do. Lawmakers missed an important opportunity to help the 2.2 million individuals who cannot access quality, affordable healthcare coverage because they live in states that have not expanded their Medicaid programs. The law also contains some investments in polluting sources of energy.
The Lung Association will continue to work at the federal and state levels to close the Medicaid coverage gap and further protect lung health from the impacts of polluting transportation and electricity.
Blog last updated: October 24, 2022