WASHINGTON — The last time President Barack Obama was in the White House was Jan. 20, 2017, when he left to escort his successor — determined to overthrow “Obamacare” — to the Capitol for his inauguration.
Obama returns to the White House on Tuesday for a moment he can savor. His signature Affordable Care Act has become part of the fabric of America’s healthcare system, and President Joe Biden is looking to expand its reach. Enrollments under the health law have increased under Biden’s leadership, and more generous taxpayer subsidies have reduced costs for enrollees, albeit temporarily.
Biden and Obama are celebrating the 12th anniversary of the law that in 2010 the then-Vice President memorably called a “big (expletive) deal.” His stamina was bolstered by three Supreme Court victories and an outright vote by the late Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, which shattered President Donald Trump’s efforts to repeal and replace him.
The law was such a bugaboo in 2010 that Democrats rarely invoked it as they headed to a midterm election that turned out to be, in Obama’s own words, “shellacking.” Now, Democrats are hoping the political equation will work to their advantage and that a focus on toughening the teen health law can help them avoid a debacle at the polls in November.
In addition to talking about health care at the White House, Biden and Obama plan to meet for lunch, recalling their weekly ritual when Biden was Obama’s vice president.
“They’re real friends, not just friends of Washington,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said. She said the two presidents would also discuss Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and other world events.
Obama likes to refer to his health care law as a “starting house” for Americans to build on, gradually reducing the 9% share of the population that is still uninsured. The rate was almost 15% in 2013, before the law’s coverage provisions came into force. Between Medicaid’s expansion of the Health Act and its health insurance markets, it is now estimated that more than 30 million people have coverage.
Shortly after taking office, Biden opened health insurance markets to anyone seeking coverage during the COVID-19 pandemic, and his coronavirus relief bill provided a significant, albeit temporary, boost. , financial assistance. The result was a record 14.5 million people taking out subsidized private coverage.
As for how to maintain this trend, Obama and Biden have no shortage of options to discuss.
The Biden administration has been working on a solution to what’s known as the law’s family problem, a quirk that’s estimated to prevent about 5 million people from being covered by the law. The White House announced the new policy proposal on Tuesday.
The people who stumbled due to the family glitch are dependents of workers who have an offer of employer coverage that the government interprets as affordable. Generally, people with affordable employer coverage are not eligible for taxpayer-subsidized ACA plans.
But the problem with the current interpretation is that affordability is determined by the cost of employee-only coverage, not the more expensive family policies. Workers able to pay their own share may not be able to cover the entire family’s premiums. The family is therefore excluded from ACA coverage.
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A Biden administration settlement addressing the issue was recently approved by the White House. The intent of the original policy was to block those covered by the employer from accessing subsidized Health Act markets, but supporters say it has proven to be too restrictive.
The White House estimates the solution would help 200,000 people get insurance and cut costs for nearly a million more.
Both presidents must also consider more fundamental issues, both politically and politically.
Unless Democrats in Congress finally unite around a version of Biden’s welfare legislation, his enhanced financial assistance for millions of ACA plan purchases will expire at the end of this year. A return to higher premiums would likely lead to more uninsured people, a political embarrassment for Democrats determined to expand coverage.
The Biden legislation, which passed the House but sprayed in the Senate, also includes a mechanism to cover up to 4 million uninsured low-income adults in states that have refused the law’s Medicaid expansion. about health. It would deliver on Biden’s campaign promise to build on existing government programs to bring the United States closer to coverage for all.
By ZEKE MILLER and RICARDO ALONSO-ZALDIVAR