West Virginians will see the biggest increase in Obamacare premiums if Manchin blocks Biden’s agenda

  • In West Virginia, Obamacare premiums would increase by an average of $1,536 if stimulus aid expires.
  • A new report from Families USA has new projections for health insurance costs if Democrats don’t extend federal aid.
  • Manchin has signaled openness on a smaller spending bill, but there has been little progress.

West Virginians are poised to experience the steepest increase in health insurance premiums in the nation if Senator Joe Manchin stops Democrats from enacting parts of his stalled economic agenda in the coming months.

That’s according to a new report released Monday by the liberal group Families USA on estimated Obamacare premium increases if Democrats can’t extend Affordable Care Act subsidies set to expire at the end of 2022. A temporary initiative under last year’s stimulus bill made health insurance cheaper for millions of people who buy their own coverage through the ACA, either in state marketplaces or in the federal marketplace on Healthcare.gov.

Democrats intended to renew the program for at least four more years under the Build Back Better plan approved by the House. But Manchin scuttled it, and Democrats haven’t tried to advance a smaller version in the 50-50 Senate.

In West Virginia, people would see an average premium increase of $1,536 per person, according to data from Families USA. Wyoming and Delaware would experience the second and third largest premium increases, respectively.

Stan Dorn, director of the National Center for Coverage Innovation at Families USA, said in an email that the huge increase is because premiums are generally higher in rural areas like West Virginia. Health care providers in rural communities have more leverage to demand higher rates from insurers. Also, many of West Virginia’s ACA recipients are older compared to other states, Dorn said.

The group calculated premium increases for the 33 states that use the federal healthcare.gov marketplace instead of their own state exchanges using data from the Department of Health and Human Services.

Democrats face a grueling midterm outlook in November with inflation and other pocketbook issues among voters’ top concerns. Rising prices have severely affected Biden’s approval rating, despite an economic rebound from the pandemic that has led to low unemployment.

With ACA open enrollment beginning on November 1, many Americans would see eye-popping premium increases for 2023 just a week before they cast ballots in the midterms.

Manchin had expressed his support for the subsidies in February. But the conservative Democrat was noncommittal when asked twice by Insider earlier this month about his current position. He has signaled some openness to reaching agreement on a smaller Democrat-only spending bill focused on reducing the federal deficit and raising taxes on the wealthiest Americans.

“Senator Manchin is always open to engaging in discussions about how best to move our country forward,” Sam Runyon, a spokesman for Manchin, said in an emailed statement. “He remains seriously concerned about the financial state of our country and believes that fighting inflation by restoring fairness to our tax system and paying down our national debt should be our first priority.”

Runyon also said Manchin is in favor of a “comprehensive energy policy” as well as lowering the cost of prescription drugs. Manchin’s office did not respond to a follow-up email about the ACA grants.

President Joe Biden last week doubled down on his promise to provide financial relief from rising prices by expanding the Affordable Care Act and lowering energy costs with new spending on cleaner forms of energy like wind and electricity. solar.

But the Democrats have been unable to sort through the rubble of their domestic ambitions or secure Manchin’s vote. They could face political pushback in the fall if they fail to renew the subsidies on their own. Republicans generally oppose expanding financial assistance for people who depend on Obamacare, given the party’s previous efforts to repeal and replace the law under the Trump administration.

The Families USA report projected that premiums for people who buy their own private insurance coverage would rise an average of 53% once the subsidies expire. As the map above shows, there are similar gains in battleground states like Wisconsin, Arizona, Ohio and New Hampshire, where Democrats hope to defend or regain Senate seats from Republicans.

Manchin, a conservative Democrat, won’t run for re-election until 2024. But his current resistance to a party-line spending bill may jeopardize his party’s chances of holding on to its narrow majority and giving voters Republicans another political attack in the fall.

“People will find out about the premium increases just before the midterm elections. It will certainly reflect poorly on Democrats,” Larry Levitt, a health care expert at the Kaiser Family Foundation, previously told Insider. “The ACA is his biggest national achievement of the last decade.”

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