Top GOP senator slams Democrats' plan to renew Obamacare aid that would help Americans buy health insurance, calling it 'free money'
- A top GOP senator slammed a Democratic effort to renew bulked-up Obamacare aid.
- "I don't think this is our problem," Sen. Roy Blunt of Missouri told Insider.
A top Republican senator attacked a Democratic effort to renew enhanced financial assistance that makes health insurance cheaper under the Affordable Care Act. The program is poised to expire at the end of the year unless Democrats renew it in a party-line tax and spending bill that won't attract GOP votes.
"I don't think this is our problem," Sen. Roy Blunt of Missouri, a member of Senate Republican leadership, told Insider this week. "Anytime you give people free money and you take it away, they would rather keep it."
He went on: "But I think they are going to be much more motivated by higher prices at the gas pump and the grocery store than they are an additional subsidy on their health insurance."
The Missouri Republican argued the the bulked-up subsidies are flowing to "a higher income group than the law was designed to assist."
"They're gonna go away unless Democrats decide they want to use their one reconciliation opportunity for that and whatever they could possibly add to it," Blunt told reporters on Capitol Hill.
Blunt's remarks reflect the staunch GOP opposition to the Affordable Care Act. The GOP embarked on a failed effort to repeal and replace the law under President Donald Trump in 2017.
Under last year's stimulus law, the temporary Obamacare initiative strengthened financial aid to many middle-income Americans for the first time. For years, they often found that buying health insurance through the federal or state marketplaces was too expensive for them with subsidies only available for lower-earners.
Democrats embarked to fix the law's affordability problems with the boosted federal subsidies, which are administered as tax credits and not a direct payment to consumers.
Lower-income Americans making less than 150% of the federal poverty level — $19,320 and under for singles, $39,750 and below for a family of four — now often pay little or nothing for coverage. Financial help is also available for individuals earning more than four times the federal poverty level, or $54,360.
But that won't be the case if the program expires in what's becoming a time-bomb for Democrats — and advocates are starting to sound the alarm. Experts say Congress must step in by midsummer to renew the subsidies or else millions of voters will get notified of premium increases looming next year only weeks before they cast ballots in the November midterms.
Aroung 13 million Americans are benefiting from the enhanced subsidy program would get hit with price increases if the program expires, per Larry Levitt, executive vice president for health policy at the Kaiser Family Foundation. Nearly 3 million people would lose their coverage, according to a separate estimate.
Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia is negotiating with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer on a smaller bill focused on cutting the deficit, cutting prescription drug prices, and stepping up taxes on the richest Americans. The pair have met three times over the past month, most recently on Wednesday.
It's unclear if enhanced Obamacare subsidies will lure his support, and Democrats must clinch his vote so a spending package clears the 50-50 Senate.