Health Care

In the Name of Pandemic Relief, Biden Would Expand Obamacare Subsidies to Households Making $350,000 a Year 

The health law made insurance more expensive, so Democrats are pushing to make subsidies bigger.


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.

In many cases, coverage provided through the law is only affordable for those who receive subsidies.

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.

Obamacare, in other words, made insurance so expensive as to be unaffordable for many people, and then tried to solve that problem by subsidizing very expensive insurance. But some people still made a little bit too much to get subsidies. So now Biden's recovery plan is trying to solve that problem too—which in practice means increasing subsidies for households earning six figures a year.

And Biden's plan wouldn't just expand subsidies to people who make a little bit more than the current cutoff.

In some cases, as Cato Institute health policy scholar Michael F. Cannon and former Trump administration economic policy official Brian Blase have both pointed out, the law would make subsidies available to households earning more than $350,000 a year.

All of this, of course, falls under the guise of pandemic relief. It's no such thing. As Blase has written, the main effect would be to expand subsidies for the well-off.

Expanding Obamacare was a Democratic policy priority before there was a pandemic. And it will of course remain a priority after the pandemic is gone—specifically when next year's midterm election comes around. Indeed, Biden's plan is designed to tee up the next round of expansion.

The COVID-19 bill expands subsidies for two years to start with. But there's little doubt that Democrats, who (not unreasonably) believe that running on Obamacare helped them win races during the 2018 midterm, will use the expiration of the subsidy expansion as an election-year talking point come 2022.

As NBC News reports, "The changes, which would be temporary, closely mirror Joe Biden's health care agenda from the presidential campaign, and Democrats are expected to try to make them permanent down the line."

And how will Republicans respond? One possibility is that many simply won't.

Although Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R–Ky.) has dismissed the subsidy boost as "a wildly expensive proposal largely unrelated to the problem," NBC News notes that when House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R–Calif.) delivered a floor speech opposing Biden's stimulus package, he never mentioned the Obamacare subsidies at all. 

NEXT: Biden Wants to Give Federal Workers 15 Weeks of Paid Leave if Their Kids' Schools Stay Closed

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. "The health law made insurance more expensive"

    Huh? That can't be right.

    Is Mr. Buttplug around today? I know he's this comment section's most accomplished financial expert and leading defender of Obamacare. He needs to set the record straight.


    1. It made insurance more expensive, but the poor and downtrodden no longer die of consumption in back alleys, as they were before 2012.


      1. After leaving my previous job 11 months ago, I’ve had some good luck to learn about this website which was a life-saver for me... They offer jobs for which people can work online from their house. My latest paycheck after working for them for 4 months was for $11600...AMs Amazing thing about is that the only thing required is simple typing skills and access to internet.

        Read all about it here..... JOBS APP

        1. I quit working at shoprite and now I make $65-85 per/h. How? I'm working online! My work didn't exactly make me happy so I decided to take a chance on something new… after 4 years jbt it was so hard to quit my day job but now I couldn't be happier.

          Here’s what I do.=========> USA ONLINE JOBS

          1. [ PART TIME JOB FOR USA ] Making money online more than 15$ just by doing simple work from home. I have received $18376 last month. Its an easy and simple job to do and CSS its earnings are much better than regular office job and even a little child can do this and earns money. Everybody must try this job by just use the info
            on this page.....READ MORE

    2. But at least there's some good news.

      "The bill funds the most dramatic expansion of Obamacare since the health law's inception, an expansion that would benefit the well off."

      Another example of OpenBordersLiberal-tarian's First Law: Democrats campaign on an "eat the rich" platform to trick poor people into voting for them, but once they're in power they govern in a way that benefits wealthy Americans, especially billionaires.

      1. With the upcoming universal basic income, we will all be billionaires!

        1. Not for long. We'll all be trillionaires soon enough.

          1. I won't be enough to buy bread but we will all be rich

            1. Earning more dollars from home easily just by working 0nline j0b from home. Makes every month extra $20k or more from this easy h0me j0b.HBg Last month i have made $22759 from this just in my spare time. Every person can now get this and start earning 0nline from the instructions given to this web page...

              =-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-= JOBS APP

          2. If you drove past a used car lot in Turkey in the 90s, the prices, written in small numbers, stretched all the way across the windshield.

            1. Nixon didn't manage quite that, but he was no piker. Closing the international gold window immediately jumped the price of oil drastically. The Saudis didn't want no stinking fiat-dollars.

            2. Google pays for every Person every hour online working from home job. I have received $23K in this month easily and I earns every weeks $5K to 8$K on SID the internet. Every Person join this and working easily by open just open this website and follow instructions
              COPY This Website OPEN HERE..... READ MORE

  2. All of this, of course, falls under the guise of pandemic relief. It's no such thing. As Blase has written, the main effect would be to expand subsidies for the well-off.

    BTW, that was a stated goal by the Democrats in the 90s. Their goal was to get everyone a government subsidy regardless of wealth status. This would ensure that the public would be unwilling to undo the Gordian knot of welfare.

  3. Thanks captain obvious. Most of us knew Dems were looking to increase subsidies for all levels of wealth when they kept attacking the SALT deduction limits put in place. Way to be 3 years too slow with your analysis. Maybe realize you made a bad choice last election.

    1. Wrong within normal parameters.

    2. "Maybe realize you made a bad choice last election."

      Hardly.'s benefactor Charles Koch lost $5 billion during Drumpf's last full year in office. But he's already up almost $4 billion this year and we're barely into March. Koch-funded libertarians knew exactly what they'd be getting when they overwhelmingly endorsed Biden.


    3. Yeah, Welchie Boy really went berserk when that SALT limit was changed.

      And anyone with half a brain knows that it's not really Biden making these decisions. The man is a senile old fool who spends his time playing Mario Kart and can barely even remember his own name half the time, which is why he hasn't given one press conference more than six weeks in.

  4. The FIRE crowd loves them some subsidized healthcare.
    Quit your high paying tech or legal jobs in your 30s or 40s with a million or two saved up, get subsidized health care cheap on one of the exchanges.
    Obamacare helps the disadvantaged afford medical care, exactly as promised.

    1. Yep. I often find myself laughing about people working while floating in the pool with a cool drink in the afternoon.

  5. "In the Name of Pandemic Relief, Biden Would Expand Obamacare Subsidies to Households Making $350,000 a Year"

    How's he plan to pay for it--by taxing people who make more than $350,000 a year?

  6. But no mean tweets! Or press conferences. Or answering any questions really.

    1. Nice hand gestures though.

      1. As if gestures are the only thing his hands are doing - - - - - - - - -

        1. Come on man!

  7. It is starting to appear as if the Democrat Party is made of and for government workers. Lots of college employees, teachers, bureaucrats, and NGO people expanding their power and security.

    1. Starting? A new age of feudalism is upon us.

    2. Mostly. Biden did crack the whip at teachers' unions. And most of the liberal press seemed to take the same tack. So it seems there is some limit to dem-public union unity.

    3. This is exactly what was happening at the VA. Bernie Sanders was Chairman of The VA committee. He refused to fire anyone at the VA. He was much more interetsd in the VA worker's jobs than he was about veterans dying while waiting for an appointment. Thankfully, the old commie was off running for President and changes were made during his constant absence. Under Bernie, veterans had to use any VA facility within 50 miles. Wait times were months and years after all the canceled appointments (on their end) and screwed up scheduling. While Bernie was off trying to be Czar, the committee voted and allowed veterans to seek other care rather than wait years for treatments.

  8. "It's increasingly clear that President ______________'s so-called _________________ plan is best understood not as a ___________ bill, designed to solve the specific _____________ problems that have emerged as a result of the ______________, but as a catchall boondoggle for longstanding ________________ policy priorities that have little if anything to do with ______________."

    Straight out of Political Mad Libs.

    1. booger.

  9. Guys, I'm hearing some backchannel noise on this For The People Act that ENB briefly mentioned in the morning Lynx. Are you guys reading what I'm reading? From The Hill:

    In fact, the worst kept secret in Washington right now is that H.R. 1 isn’t for the people at all, it’s for the politicians. House Democrats are leveraging legitimate concerns about election integrity to rush this dangerous bill through Congress. It won’t make our elections safer, instead it will give House Democrats an advantage in future elections by eliminating nearly every institutional guardrail that preserves the sanctity of the ballot box today. Pelosi is opening the floodgates for almost anyone to submit a ballot, or even multiple ballots, regardless of eligibility.

    It is a new partisan low, even by Washington standards.

    At a time when we need to restore faith in our elections, H.R. 1 is an unconstitutional federal power grab that will pave the way for a system rife with errors and abuse. Here’s how.

    1. In addition, it publicly funds congressional campaigns at a ratio of 6 to 1.

      Under the bill, candidates for congressional office could opt into a system that would provide matching funds for small donations. To qualify, the candidate would need to raise $50,000 from at least 1,000 individuals; take no more than $1,000 from any contributor; and spend no more than $50,000 of their own money.

      In return, all donations to the candidate up to $200 would be matched with public funds at a 6 to 1 ratio. Thus if you gave $10 to someone running for Congress, they would receive that plus another $60, totaling $70.

      What the fuck is going on?

      1. Exactly what it looks like; democratic party take over of the USA.

    2. Read my lips: NO. EVIDENCE. OF. FRAUD.

      1. I read your lips as "pay no attention to the man behind the green curtain".

      2. No widespread fraud.

        1. No provable widespread fraud. Now shred all the ballots and erase the voting machines!

          1. Oh, you guys have evidence now, finally?

            Oh, no?

            Oh well.

      3. No "widespread" fraud. Even the lockstep mass media repeats this phrase because they know they'd be LYING if they did not.

        search: "Four people, including justice of the peace, arrested on 150 counts of voter fraud"

        There was *absolutely* fraud in the 2020 election, and pretending there was not is completely disingenuous. Every election has fraud. No state wants to admit it. Go search around local news reports.

        1. Houston Chronicle, "Texas woman arrested on election fraud charges based on Project Veritas video"

          1. "Texas Social Worker Charged With 134 Counts Involving Election Fraud", 6/6/20, 11/21 CBS news

            1. eh, well, one of those wasn't 2020 election but you get the picture.

                1. More reports from other elections.
                  "A Mississippi judge ordered a new runoff election for a local election in Aberdeen after more than three-quarters of absentee ballots cast in the June Democratic runoff election were found to be invalid, while a notary involved in the election was arrested."

                  Spare me the nonsense about "no fraud." Elections are bullshit in the first place, and their outcomes always are too.

                  1. Maybe read a little out of your comfy zone of AP-biased and MSM news channels, who have decided to squelch any and all news about these factual cases of fraud. Go read the local news, where generally facts are facts. Stop pretending that your local news presents you with all sides of the story (or even more than one in most cases).

      4. If a tree falls in the forest and the "press" doesn't report it, did it happen?

      5. There were tens of millions of illegal mailin ballots counted. Not all these were fraudulent ballots but the illegal ballots should not have been counted because they fiolated established state election law. Judges are mostly corrupt shit bags to enforce constitutional law and invalidate tens of millions ballots. Its their job to decide unpopular outcomes, but hey corrupt bureaucrats run the show now.

        Just look at how the 2A says the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed but some gun control laws are okay for courts.

    3. The fact that democrats are trying to cement election fraud FOR DeMOCRATS into federal law means that democrats used election fraud to steal an election,

      Its a tried and true tell for democrats. Whatever they lie about “that so and so did”. democrats did themselves.

  10. I honestly do not believe any of this is actually from Biden himself; rather I picture the guy sitting at his desk and signing whatever is set before him. Press conferences are of course very carefully managed and scripted, both for him and the press corps.

    He will not make it through his first [and last] term.

    1. It's not. None of it is from Biden. None of it. Biden is sitting in the corner of the Oval office with a blanket over his lap, eating tapioca and watching Matlock while a team of the scariest fucking people you could imagine are huddled around a conference table, occasionally walking over to him and having him sign stuff they came up with.

    2. Communist china is in charge of this banana republic.

      Commies in china used a biological weapon on america and americans are just coming around to this fact.

      After we deal with the commie traitors inside America, we will deal with the commies in china.

  11. This is NOT a Communist Chinese Virus relief bill.
    If it were, all spending would have to be completed within the next 3 months when the virus will be conquered.
    This is the democratic party acting on the platform they ran on, and 'won' the election with. Expand federal government power while eliminating individual freedom is the stated goal, and they are progressing quite directly in that direction.

  12. >>It's increasingly clear

    it has *always* been clear.

  13. Aw no you mean the democrat leftie policies are libertarian?

    Man who could have predicted that one.

  14. Ore incrementalism. Once the majority of households are on subsidized healthcare the road to a single payer system is even shorter.

  15. Alt-text: "No, but seriously, who's the President now?"

    1. every day looking more like the evil reverend from Poltergeist II

      1. That's like the pile of election ballots in the Hummer parking lot (South Park)... no one would ever see it.

  16. Simple solution 2021: Place an executive action in front of basement Joe for his X that executive orders all medical personnel work without pay. It's an emergency!

  17. So what? No mean tweets. You guys own every Biden policy.

  18. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, the ACA has greatly reduced the growth rate of the cost of health insurance:

    The cost of a family health insurance policy grew by an average of 7.95% per year between 2001-2010 & 4.49% per year from 2011-2020. Without the ACA, the average family would be paying $8,249 more per year for health insurance. Of course, it may be that the majority of the savings was derived from Trump's promise to replace the ACA with a much better plan.

  19. "Dear USA patriots, If we can't Constitutionally *force* you to buy our federal insurance plans we'll just stamp it in your income tax bill.", the Nazi Left.

  20. Poor commies at unreason. They really want el presidente biden to be a legitimate president of the united states. Hes a banana republic tool. He knows it and we all know it.

    America is in the middle of civil war 2.0...democrats are not winning like they hoped.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.