Democrats pressure party leaders to defuse ACA grant ticking time bomb ahead of election

WASHINGTON — Fifty-seven House Democrats are pressuring party leaders to act quickly to avert a sharp hike in health insurance premiums that threatens to hit many Americans in October, just before the midterm elections. mandate.

A letter written by leaders of the moderate NDP coalition and signed by many lawmakers in competitive races this fall aims to push Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, DN.Y., to unify his 50-member caucus around a filibuster-proof bill that expands a package of enhanced Affordable Care Act grants, which were passed in the 2021 U.S. bailout and expire after this year .

“Without congressional action this fall to extend advanced premium tax credits, millions of Americans risk losing their health care coverage or seeing their premiums soar,” the lawmakers wrote, signed by Reps. Cindy Axne of Iowa; Washington’s Kim Schrier; Tom Malinowski of New Jersey; and New Hampshire’s Chris Pappas, and others in some of this year’s toughest contests.

“With prices rising widely, our constituents cannot afford these increased health insurance costs. This cannot happen on our watch,” the Democrats said in the letter, first reported by NBC News and sent Monday night to the offices of Schumer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.

According to the Department of Health and Human Services, 3 million people are expected to lose coverage if subsidies are not extended. A further 9.4 million would see their premiums rise due to an automatic funding cut due to take effect next year, which consumers are expected to be notified of this fall.

With inflation already causing difficulties, failure to prevent these increases would be a “double whammy” for middle-class Americans in health care markets, said Larry Levitt, executive vice president of policy. of health at the Kaiser Family Foundation.

“It would be a big blow to the family budgets of ACA enrollees and a big political blow to Democrats, who consider the ACA one of their greatest national achievements in decades,” Levitt said in a statement. E-mail. “Bounty increase notices would come just before the midterm elections, so the timing couldn’t be worse for Democrats if they fail to pass a grant extension.”

The political perils of failure are significant for Democrats, who enjoyed huge advantages over Republicans among voters in 2018 and 2020 who prioritized health care as their top issue. The GOP lost ground on the issue in pushing to eliminate the ACA, and the party unanimously opposed increased grants last year.

The House passed the Build Back Better Act in November, extending a provision through 2025 that caps bonuses on a “benchmark” plan at a maximum of 8.5% of income. But he languished in the Senate after centrist Sen. Joe Manchin, DW.Va., torpedoed him on other concerns. The Democrats’ only hope of expanding funding is to use the budget reconciliation process to bypass unanimous GOP opposition, which requires all of their 50 members.

In recent weeks, Schumer and Manchin have held a number of private meetings over the past few weeks about a new bill, though neither has released details. It remains unclear whether Democrats can unify their caucus around a new party-line bill.

“Senator Manchin has supported ACA grant expansion in the past,” Rep. Suzan DelBene, D-Wash., chair of the New Democrat Coalition, said in an interview. “This is, obviously, critically important to families across the country. And so he voted for this provision in the US bailout. And I hope he has broad support and is part of this discussion.

Manchin told NBC News he was ready to extend ACA funding. “Anything that helps workers to be able to buy affordable insurance, I’ve always been supportive,” he said in February.

DelBene said there was “a great sense of urgency about changing legislation” before health insurers send out notices of new premiums next year. She said it was important for Congress to extend funding before the August recess.

“Ideally we get the legislation passed long before the letters go out, so people don’t get confused,” she said.

Senate Finance Chairman Ron Wyden, D-Ore., said he’s spoken to Manchin and other Democrats “repeatedly” about “the significance and urgency of keeping bonuses at a low level” preserving ACA money.

“Too many people are still walking an economic tightrope,” he said. “So I see that as part of my job.”