HEALTH CARE BRIEFING: Looming ACA Premium Hikes Rattle Democrats

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Democrats, heading into elections that will determine whether they retain control of Congress, are warning that Obamacare premiums are set to go up and compound the rising cost of living.

Insurance costs for millions of Americans will increase next year if Congress doesn’t extend temporary public subsidy boosts for people on Obamacare plans, Democrats say. The party has made the health care law a central plank in their platform, elevating the importance of staving off added burdens for Americans covered under the Affordable Care Act.

“If we don’t act now to extend these savings, families will see sharp, unacceptable premium increases in 2023,” Rep. Lauren Underwood (D-Ill.) told reporters Tuesday.

A partisan pandemic stimulus package (Public Law 117-2) enacted early last year—just as Democrats took control of the White House and the Capitol—limited ACA premiums to no more than 8.5% of income for eligible households. It also expanded premium subsidies to households earning more than 400% of the federal poverty level, and provided more aid to help low-income people with out-of-pocket costs.

Those extra subsidies will expire at the end of this year. And users are set to learn about higher premiums about one month before the midterms, Larry Levitt, executive vice president for health policy at the Kaiser Family Foundation, said in an email. Read more from Alex Ruoff.

Also on Lawmakers’ Radars

Wednesday’s Hearings:

  • The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee holds a Wednesday hearing to consider Rita Landgraf’s nomination to be assistance HHS secretary for aging.
  • The House Energy and Commerce Oversight Subcommittee holds a Wednesday hearing on the nation’s baby formula shortage, with FDA Commissioner Robert Califf set to testify. The House Appropriations Agriculture-FDA Subcommittee also holds a hearing today on the formula shortage. Erik Wasson has more.
  • The Senate Indian Affairs Committee holds a Wednesday hearing to consider Roselyn Tso’s nomination to be director of the Indian Health Service at the HHS.
  • BGOV Calendar: See full list of hearings this week.

Lawmakers Unveil Veterans’ Toxic Exposures Bill: Sens. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) and Jerry Moran (R-Kan.), the heads of the Veterans Affairs Committee, unveiled sweeping legislation behind a bipartisan agreement that would allow millions of veterans exposed to toxic substances during military deployments to access more medical care and disability benefits, Roxana Tiron reports. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said he’ll bring the burn pit legislation to the floor in early June. Read the bill here.

Coal Miners Put Manchin on Spot: Coal miners sickened by black-lung disease need renewal of an income stream to help fund their disability benefits. Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) predicted his stand-alone legislation (S. 2810), extending the 2021 tax rate companies pay into the Black Lung Disability Fund through 2031, will end up in a larger legislative package that’s yet to be determined. Read more from Kellie Lunney.

Bill Would Bolster FTC Oversight of Drug Pricing: Pharmacy benefit managers would have to report how much money they make through fees to the Federal Trade Commission under a bill introduced Tuesday. The bipartisan measure from Sens. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) and Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) also seeks to crack down on unfair pricing schemes and clawbacks of payments to pharmacies. Read more from Alicia Diaz.

What Else to Know Today

US Issues Emergency Order to Aid Formula Transport: The Biden administration issued an emergency order to help transport baby formula ingredients and packaging, effective immediately. Under the order, motor carriers and drivers are granted emergency relief from maximum driving time limits, Lauren Dezenski reports.

  • The Federal Trade Commission opened an inquiry Tuesday into the infant formula shortage, asking for information about how industry mergers, federal regulations and contracts to help feed low-income women and children may have contributed to the problem, Leah Nylen and Maeve Sheehey report.
  • Millions more cans of baby formula will be available in the US in the coming months, the nation’s Food and Drug Administration said, detailing steps it’s taken to alleviate a shortage that has alarmed families and caregivers. About 2 million cans of infant formula made by UK-based company Kendal Nutricare are expected to arrive on US store shelves starting next month after receiving special clearance from the FDA, Fiona Rutherford reports.

Monkeypox Easier to Fight Than Covid, Experts Say: Monkeypox isn’t the next Covid, and the world already has all the tools to contain the outbreak, health experts said. The virus probably won’t bring about the next pandemic, Seth Berkley, CEO of the GAVI Alliance, said. Naomi Kresge and Corinne Gretler have more.

  • California has identified its first suspected case of monkeypox, according to the Department of Public Health. In the US, there has been one confirmed case in Massachusetts and other suspected cases in New York, Florida and Utah. Kara Wetzel has more.

Abortion Pill Lawsuit Offers Guide to Challenging State Limits: An ongoing lawsuit over Mississippi’s abortion pill restrictions could set a roadmap for the Biden administration and others seeking to ease access to the medication across the country as the US Supreme Court considers overturning Roe v. Wade. GenBioPro, the manufacturer of generic mifepristone, contends the FDA’s regulations for dispensing and prescribing the pill preempt the state’s stricter requirements. Read more from Celine Castronuovo.

More Headlines:

With assistance from Roxana Tiron

To contact the reporter on this story: Brandon Lee in Washington at

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Giuseppe Macri at; Michaela Ross at

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