Here’s the next big test for Sen. Joe Manchin. Will he help Mitch McConnell derail the Senate Democratic majority and the Biden presidency? Will he allow this to happen?
McConnell took another hostage this week, the bipartisan competitiveness bill that is in a House/Senate conference right now. McConnell says he’ll block that bill if Democrats insist on moving forward with the budget reconciliation bill that will include the tatters of Biden’s Build Back Better plan. Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has been working with Manchin to figure out what he’s willing to support in that bill that can pass with just Democratic votes—which has to pass before Sept. 30 when the authorization for it expires. The fix for that big subsidy cliff has to come in that reconciliation bill.
Look again at that tweet from Kaiser Family Foundation’s (KFF) Larry Levitt: If this isn’t fixed, premiums in Manchin’s home state, West Virginia “would more than double for a 40-year-old making just over $50,000.” That would likely mean that 40-year-old would end up uninsured because they wouldn’t be able to afford insurance.
KFF has analyzed what will happen if Democrats don’t pass a permanent extension of the increased subsidies people have been receiving since the American Rescue Plan passed in 2021.
On average across the U.S., a 40-year-old with an income just over four times the poverty level ($51,520 per year for individuals buying coverage in 2022), will see their premium payments increase from 8.5% of their income to about 10% of their income if ARPA subsidies expire. The typical 40-year-old would go from having subsidized monthly payments of $365 to an unsubsidized $438, or an increase in their premium payment of about 20% simply due to the loss of subsidies. That’s before accounting for any increase in the unsubsidized premium from 2022 to 2023.
Note that there is a limit there to premium payments—8.5% of income. That there is what you might call means-testing, something Manchin says he would demand happen if he’s going to allow that in his bill. Which suggests Manchin had absolutely no idea how this program worked to begin with, and just responded as he always does to anything that might help people—only the people he approves of getting help should get it.
Democrats might have been able to skirt those demands from Manchin by extending for only a few years instead of making them permanent, and thus reducing the price tag. But Manchin has also been insisting that every program in the bill be permanent because he says doing otherwise is a budgeting gimmick.
“Everyone recognizes that it needs to be done,” someone working on the issue told Politico. “But to get it done under our current understanding of the framework, he’d have to make an exception.”
“[A] spokesperson for Manchin declined to comment further on his willingness to extend them beyond the year’s end or waive his requirement for permanent programs,” Politico reported earlier this week.
Now there’s the larger question of whether Manchin will put about 13 million people’s health insurance in jeopardy, including a whole lot of West Virginians, to side with McConnell. In the name of “bipartisanship.”