The relief bill under consideration by the House after passage by the Senate would increase subsidies to people who buy Affordable Care Act health plans.
With the increased subsidies, costs would come down for many who buy ACA-compliant plans. For a 60-year-old with a $55,000 income, premiums would drop by around 50% to 80% depending on the plan, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation analysis.
The subsidy changes would be temporary and expire after two years, but would mean much lower payments for almost 14 million people now insured on the individual market.
The package also includes funding aimed at enticing states that didn’t expand their Medicaid programs earlier and subsidies to cover the cost of health insurance for people who lose their jobs.
The Senate version also provides more relief for people who have lost their jobs and need health insurance. People who lose their jobs can remain on their employers’ health plans for up to 18 months but must pay a monthly premium. The Senate bill would subsidize all of the premiums, a boost from a House-passed bill that would subsidize 85% of the premium costs.
Currently under the ACA, people who earn 400% of the federal poverty level aren’t eligible for the tax credits, also known as subsidies, that help offset the cost of buying health plans.
The legislation would eliminate income cap that limits who is eligible for ACA tax credits. It would also limit the amount households pay to only 8.5% of their income on healthcare, and it boost subsidies to lower-income consumers.
The subsidy boost for the ACA plans has been a long-held goal of Democrats who say expanding the tax credits would allow more people to benefit from the coverage. They are expected to press to make it permanent during the 2022 midterm elections.
“Affordable, accessible health coverage is a necessity in a pandemic,” said Rep. Richard Neal (D., Mass.)
Republicans and some conservative advocacy groups oppose the plan, saying the federal government will spend billions of dollars to help insure a relatively low number of people who aren’t financially needy. They also call it a handout to insurance companies who stand to profit as more people purchase ACA plans.