California Healthline - California Representatives Introduce Bill To Tie ACA Subsidies to Cost of Living

February 18, 2014
In The News
 
On Tuesday, Reps. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.) and Mike Thompson (D-Calif.) introduced legislation (HR 3986) that would tie federal subsidies for health coverage under the Affordable Care Act to cost of living, allowing some individuals with incomes higher than 400% of the federal poverty level to receive tax credits under the law, the Contra Costa Times reports (Seipel, Contra Costa Times, 2/5).
 
Background
Under the ACA, individuals with annual incomes below 138% of the federal poverty level -- or about $15,850 -- can qualify for coverage under the Medicaid expansion.
Meanwhile, individuals with incomes between 138% and 400% of the federal poverty level can qualify for federal tax subsidies to purchase private coverage through the state insurance exchanges (California Healthline, 7/31/13).
 
Details of Bill
According to the Times, the Fair Access to Health Act would allow individuals living in areas of the country with higher living expenses to receive tax credits, even if their incomes are above 400% of the poverty level.
For example, under the bill:
Residents of the San Francisco metropolitan area with an income of up to $61,356, or families of four with a household income of up to $125,757, would qualify for subsidies; and
Residents of the San Jose metropolitan area with an income of up to $62,147, or families of four with a household income of up to $127,377, would be eligible for a subsidy.
Eshoo and Thompson noted that cost-of-living adjustments already are taken into account under the ACA in Alaska and Hawaii. The bill would allow the same adjustment to be made in the 48 remaining states.
 
Reaction
Several Democratic U.S. Representatives from California said they support the bill, including:
Sam Farr from Santa Cruz;
Mike Honda from San Jose;
Zoe Lofgren from San Jose; and
Jackie Speier from San Mateo.
 
Micah Weinberg, a health policy adviser to the Bay Area Council, called the proposal "a good idea" but said it would be difficult to pass the bill in the Republican-controlled House.
 
Lanhee Chen -- a research fellow at Stanford University's Hoover Institution and policy director for former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney's (R) presidential campaign -- said, "If anything, Republicans are looking for ways to pare back the subsidies, not to make them more generous" (Contra Costa Times, 2/5).