A group of vulnerable House Democrats is warning of spikes in ObamaCare premiums this fall, saying that enhanced financial assistance from last year’s relief bill needs to be extended.
Rep. Lauren Underwood (D-Ill.) led the letter from 26 swing-district House Democrats to Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), calling for the enhanced ObamaCare financial assistance to be extended as part of any party-line economic package that Democrats put together.
If Congress does not act, experts note ObamaCare enrollees will receive notices of increases in their premiums in the run-up to the midterm elections, adding a political blow for Democrats at a time when the party is already facing major electoral headwinds.
The American Rescue Plan signed by President Biden early last year temporarily provided enhanced premium help for ObamaCare enrollees. But those extra subsidies are slated to expire at the end of this year, leading to calls for Congress to act to make the enhanced help permanent.
“These out-of-pocket cost increases are imminent: starting this autumn, when enrollees begin receiving notices of their premium increases for 2023 health plans, our constituents will find that the same high-quality coverage that they have been able to afford thanks to the American Rescue Plan will now be out of reach,” the lawmakers write.
“We cannot allow the progress we have made to be temporary,” they add. “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.”
Extending the enhanced ObamaCare subsidies was part of President Biden’s Build Back Better package that House Democrats passed in November.
But negotiations over the Senate version of the package have been stalled for months, and it is unclear if leaders will be able to reach a deal with Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), the key swing vote if Democrats hope to use reconciliation to bypass a Republican filibuster in the Senate.
Manchin has expressed openness to the enhanced ObamaCare subsidies in the past, though their fate is tied up in the larger negotiations.
If the enhanced subsidies are not extended, premium increases could be substantial. The Kaiser Family Foundation estimates that premiums would have been 53 percent higher on average this year without the extra financial assistance.
The lawmakers are also calling for a provision extending health coverage to low-income people in the 12 states that have not expanded Medicaid to be included in the package.