A temporary COVID-19 relief program that aimed to lower healthcare premiums under the Affordable Care Act is slated to expire and voters would begin receiving notices just weeks before the midterms in November.
Under the Biden administration-backed American Rescue Plan, a temporary program was initiated to cut monthly healthcare premiums to make it more affordable for people purchasing individual plans under the ACA, also known as Obamacare.
However, according to analysts, the program is scheduled to expire and notices about premium increases will be sent out in October. The midterms will take place on Tuesday, Nov. 8.
“If Congress lets the ACA premium help in the American Rescue Plan expire at the end of this year, middle-class people buying their own insurance would be hit hardest,” Larry Levitt, vice president for health policy at the Kaiser Family Foundation, said in a Twitter post. “They could face a double whammy of inflation and the loss of premium assistance, costing thousands of dollars.”
Elaborating, Levitt noted that “a middle-class couple of 50 year-olds making $75,000 got no premium help under the ACA because they made too much to qualify,” but he added, “under the American Rescue Plan, they’re getting an average premium subsidy of $8,304 per year, paying $6,375 themselves.”
“While the 14.5 million ACA enrollees are a small share of the population, big premium increases from expiring subsidies could have outsized political implications,” he continued. “The ACA is a signature program for Democrats. And, notices of premium hikes would come right before the election.”
Sabrina Corlette, the co-director of the Center on Health Insurance Reforms at Georgetown University’s McCourt School of Public Policy, told Politico, “It’s not a good look when you’re going into a midterm election. There could be some really awful stories about people losing coverage.”
A few dozen House Democrats recently urged action from Senate and House leaders to prevent the subsidies from expiring in the fall, with some saying it should be included in the reanimated “Build Back Better” proposal.
“We cannot allow the progress we have made to be temporary,” the Democrat lawmakers said. “We must make lower out-of-pocket costs and expanded coverage a permanent pillar of our health care system, and reconciliation is our only chance to get this done.”
But one of the top Republicans in the Senate said that the subsidies are a nonstarter, suggesting that reaching a deal on the Build Back Better program with the Obamacare provision won’t happen. Since its inception about a decade ago, Republicans have been mostly opposed to the healthcare law, and in 2017, GOP lawmakers attempted to repeal and replace it without success.
“I don’t think this is our problem,” Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), a member of the GOP leadership in the upper chamber, told Business Insider. “Anytime you give people free money and you take it away, they would rather keep it.”
Should Democrats try to squeeze it into the Build Back Better proposal, it would likely require the support of centrist Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) or Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), who opposed major portions of the previous iteration of the bill. Manchin and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) are reportedly in talks about reviving the package.
Blunt pointed to other cost increases that have occurred in the Biden era, saying 2022 midterm voters “are going to be much more motivated by higher prices at the gas pump and the grocery store than they are an additional subsidy on their health insurance.”