Our Nevada Communities are well into the third year of the coronavirus pandemic and there is still much uncertainty about when we will finally return to normalcy and how long it will take us to recover and rebuild. The fastest way to recovery? Making sure that Nevadans stay healthy.

Thanks to the passage of the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) last year, millions of people across our country became eligible for health insurance subsidies through a vital federal program that lowers costs for families struggling to afford coverage.

These subsidies are already producing impressive results, and as a Mineral County Commissioner I have seen firsthand the positive impact of expanded access to health care in our community. This year, enrollment reached an all-time high with more than 101,000 Nevada residents selecting health coverage for 2022 through our state-based marketplace—a 24 percent increase. Yet even as the current subsidies are enabling an historic number of Americans to get affordable care, the subsidies will expire at the end of this year unless Congress acts to make them permanent.

Allowing the subsidies to expire would have a devastating toll on both the physical and financial health of countless families, particularly for lower-income Americans who could see their monthly premiums double. With record high inflation, throwing millions of Americans off an insurance cliff could have disastrous consequences.

Without the marketplace tax credits, 41,000 Nevada residents could lose the ability to purchase affordable care and thousands more Nevadans would be priced out of comprehensive coverage. In fact, more than 14.5 million Americans who get their health care coverage through the federal or state-based marketplaces could face premium increases of $600 per year on average. Many would be forced off of their coverage altogether and the number of uninsured could increase by more than 3 million in 2023 according to a new Urban Institute report.

The ongoing pandemic continues to highlight long-standing disparities in health care access between rural and urban areas across Nevada and the nation. For example, rural communities like mine in Mineral County depend largely on hospitals for medical services that might be routine elsewhere. Addressing health care challenges in rural Nevada requires an all-hands-on-deck approach. Unless policymakers act with urgency to make subsidies permanent, the increasing burden of this public health crisis on our lives and livelihoods will only worsen.

The need for high-quality, low-cost health care existed long before COVID-19 struck our state, and it will not disappear once the pandemic is over. Now is not the time to roll back the gains we have made to connect more people with reliable coverage. We have a once in a generation opportunity to keep building on our progress so that every Nevadan and every American can get the health care they need, no matter where they live. Making the subsidies permanent is the best way to lock in the critical benefits of a vital federal program that equips Nevada families for a brighter future.

As Congress considers health care spending in the months ahead, we will be counting on Senator Cortez Masto, Senator Rosen, and our representatives on Capitol Hill to prioritize the health and recovery of the Silver State by making federal health insurance subsidies permanent.

Cassie Hall is a member of the Mineral County Board of Commissioners.