A group of Democratic governors is calling on Congress to avert what they call “disastrous” ObamaCare premium increases for next year, as lawmakers search for a solution in their economic package.
The letter from 14 Democratic governors to congressional leaders calls for extending enhanced Affordable Care Act subsidies enacted last year as part of President Biden’s American Rescue Plan (ARP), but which are currently set to expire at the end of this year.
“We urge you to take action immediately to make the ARP expanded subsidies permanent to prevent a disastrous erosion of health insurance coverage,” write the state leaders, including Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker, California Gov. Gavin Newsom, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy.
In the letter, first reported by Punchbowl News, they also linked the issue to struggles with inflation. “At a time when governments at all levels are struggling to find ways to reduce costs for the American people, we cannot allow the looming specter of rising health costs to cause more uncertainty and stress for American families,” they wrote.
Democrats in Congress have also been calling for extending the enhanced subsidies, but their fate largely depends on Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), the key vote on Biden’s party-line economic package.
Manchin has not given a clear answer on whether he supports extending the enhanced subsidies. In one interview with Insider this month, he suggested he could support an extension if the financial assistance was further “means-tested,” meaning help was reduced for people with higher incomes.
“We should be helping the people who really need it the most and are really having the hardest time,” he said.
The premium increase also poses a political risk for Democrats, already facing a tough midterm landscape, as notices of the premium increases would go out ahead of the elections.
If the enhanced subsidies expire, it would return the Affordable Care Act to its pre-2021 levels of financial assistance. But the premium increases would be substantial: with an average increase of about 53 percent affecting roughly 13 million people, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.