The coronavirus relief package unveiled by House Democrats on Monday includes a major expansion of the Affordable Care Act that would boost premium subsidies already offered under the Obama-era health care law and increase their availability.
The bill, a draft of which the House Ways and Means Committee released Monday, would fully subsidize ObamaCare subsidies for people earning up to 150% of the federal poverty level and unemployed individuals. The measure would also make Americans earning more than 400% of the poverty level — about $51,000 for one person, and $106,000 for a family of four — eligible for subsidies for the first time and would cap their premium costs at 8.5%.
The subsidy boosts, which Democrats have sought for years, would only last for two years, through 2022.
The measure would also have the federal government subsidize 85% of COBRA coverage, which allows individuals who lost their jobs to stay on their previous employer's health care, through Sept. 21.
"The increased ACA premium subsidies under the House COVID relief plan, along with a new outreach campaign, could supercharge the upcoming reopened enrollment period and help to reverse recent increases in the number of people uninsured," Larry Levitt, a health policy expert at the Kaiser Family Foundation, said in a tweet.
Still, Levitt noted this is "not a permanent solution" since the subsidies last for just two years, and said that "many people will still find premiums and deductibles unaffordable, likely leaving tens of millions uninsured."
The provisions are part of a broader relief bill that's expected to cost around $2 trillion and includes a third $1,400 stimulus check, expanded unemployment benefits at $400 a week and $160 billion for vaccine distribution. House Democrats plan to pass the bill using a procedural tool known as budget reconciliation, which will allow them to approve it with their slimmest-possible Senate majority. Senate Democrats have not released their version of the bill yet.
Lawmakers are eyeing a March 14 deadline to approve the package, because that's when supplemental unemployment benefits expire for millions of Americans.