Centrist House Dems are raising pressure on party leaders to defuse an Obamacare timebomb soon.
The New Democrat Coalition is urging Schumer and Pelosi to revive a reconciliation bill with a key health program.
Democrats are at risk of setting off a premium hike just before the November midterms.
A large group of House Democrats are stepping up pressure on party leaders to revive their stalled economic agenda and avoid hitting voters with huge healthcare bills only weeks before the November midterms.
Fifty-seven members of the centrist New Democrat coalition led by Rep. Suzan DelBene of Washington signed a letter meant to highlight the steep health insurance premium increases that many people would face if a pandemic-era financial assistance program expires in December. The cohort included many Democratic lawmakers locked in tight re-election races this fall.
Under the stimulus law last year, Democrats bulked up federal subsidies to cut monthly premiums for millions of Americans purchasing individual health insurance plans under the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The move led to many lower-income Americans paying little or nothing for health coverage. Many middle-class families qualified for generous federal assistance for the first time.
If Democrats fail to revive a reconciliation bill extending the enhanced subsidies past year’s end, major price hikes often totaling hundreds of dollars will hit 13 million Americans during a punishing stretch of inflation. Three million people would also lose their health insurance, according to the Department of Health and Human Services.
“With prices rising broadly, our constituents cannot afford these increased health insurance costs,” the group wrote in a letter to Schumer and Pelosi shared with Insider. “This cannot happen on our watch.”
Signatories included DelBene; Rep. Cindy Axne of Iowa; Rep. Josh Gottheimer of New Jersey; Rep. Tom Malinowski of New Jersey; and Rep. Bill Foster of Indiana. NBC News first reported the letter.
Experts say Congress must act by midsummer to ensure states and private insurers have enough time to set up their enrollment periods, which can take months.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer is negotiating with Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia to strike a deal on a smaller spending bill that may extend the healthcare program. Since Republicans are staunchly against strengthening the ACA, Democrats can only renew the initiative using their own votes in budget reconciliation.
The House-approved Build Back Better legislation extended the program for four years and limited premium bills to 8.5% of an individual’s income. Manchin sank the bill last year, citing its potential to grow the national debt and worsen inflation. That measure has withered in the 50-50 Senate ever since.
Schumer and Manchin have met four times in the past two months to cut a deal on a smaller bill, which senior Democrats hope to advance in the Senate by August 1.
The pair have not publicly shared details of those negotiations and it’s unclear if the conservative West Virginia Democrat backs an extension of the program. “Manchin and I keep the details to ourselves,” Schumer told Insider last week. “But it was a good meeting, getting into some degree of detail. We’ve got a ways to go.”