3 Million People May Lose Obamacare Subsidies Unless Congress Acts

3 Million People May Lose Obamacare Subsidies Unless Congress Acts Affordable Care Act. Affordable Care Act. (Designer491/Dreamstime.com)

By Peter Malbin | Monday, 11 April 2022 01:58 PM

Enhanced subsidies for insurance on the Marketplace exchanges for the Affordable Care Act, aka "Obamacare," are set to expire later this year, which would result in mass coverage losses and premium hikes.

Researchers say Congress would need to act by midsummer if they wish to extend the Premium Tax Credits (PTCs) to give Marketplaces, insurers, and outreach programs time to prepare for the 2023 open enrollment period, which begins this November, The Urban Institute reported.

Democrats have sought, but so far failed, to extend temporary tax credits that were implemented in President Joe Biden's pandemic relief plan for premiums on health plans purchased on the exchanges, The Washington Examiner noted.

The subsidies were only meant to last for two years. Congress was on track to extend them beyond their 2022 expiration through the Build Back Better bill, but Biden's legislative agenda was defeated.

"In addition to experiencing coverage losses, people who already had nongroup coverage before the ARP will spend hundreds of dollars more per person on health insurance premiums each year if the enhanced [Premium Tax Credits] are not extended," the authors of the report wrote.

The premium cost reductions established in 2021's American Rescue Plan caused enrollment to rise to a record level. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services said 14.5 million Americans signed up for or were automatically reenrolled in 2022 individual market health insurance coverage through the marketplaces.

The total number of enrolled during the most recent open enrollment period totals marked a 21% increase over last year and the highest volume since Obamacare was signed into law 12 years ago.

Biden has been urging Congress to make the subsidies permanent. During his State of the Union address earlier this year, he said that "the American Rescue Plan is helping millions of families on Affordable Care Act plans save $2,400 a year on their healthcare premiums. Let's close the coverage gap and make those savings permanent."

Democrats will likely seek to extend them further before November, according to Matt Buettgens, a co-author of the Urban Institute report. A legislative win would help buoy Democrats, The Washington Examiner observed.

"There is evidence that there will be attempts to renew it as a stand-alone thing," Buettgens said. "The Build Back Better Act included additional spending that also includes other provisions that raised the revenue that weren't necessarily directly related to the new spending. So the bill would have to be paired with something that increases revenue."

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