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It's increasingly clear that President Joe Biden's so-called coronavirus recovery plan is best understood not as a coronavirus relief bill, designed to solve the specific health and economic problems that have emerged as a result of the pandemic, but as a catchall boondoggle for longstanding Democratic policy priorities that have little if anything to do with COVID-19.
Case in point: The bill funds the most dramatic expansion of Obamacare since the health law's inception, an expansion that would benefit the well off. And it sets the stage for another expansion down the road.
Biden's plan would funnel an additional $34 billion into the law over the next two years, boosting spending on subsidies for private insurance by about 29 percent. The boosted spending would move about 1.7 million people onto subsidized coverage sold through the health law's regulated marketplaces; about 1.3 million of them would be previously uninsured, according to a Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimate. A substantial chunk of the effect, in other words, will be to move about four hundred thousand people who are already insured into subsidized coverage. That alone is a reason for skepticism.
Worse, much of the spending would go to relatively well-off, and even quite high-earning, households. The subsidy boost is intended to address the fact that Obamacare's array of coverage requirements have helped make insurance plans sold through the law often run well into the four-figure-per-month range. In some parts of the country, Obamacare plans cost tens of thousands of dollars per year.
The law already provides subsidies for households up to 400 percent of the poverty line, or about $106,000 a year for a family of four. But as the law currently stands, a household that makes just a little bit more than that threshold qualifies for no subsidies at all.
— Michael F. Cannon (@mfcannon) March 4, 2021
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