President Joe Biden signed an executive order Tuesday that would expand coverage under the Affordable Care Act by allowing the cost of family health insurance to be used as a reference point when determining who qualifies for subsidies.
Under existing rules, the so-called family glitch in the ACA requires the cost of health insurance for a single person to be used when determining the level of federal subsidies available for those seeking coverage. If the cost of insurance available through a job for one person is less than 10% of household income, then it is considered reasonable and no subsidies for plans through the federal exchanges are available – even if the cost of private health insurance for a whole family is far higher, as it typically is. Biden’s executive order changes the rules to allow the cost of family insurance to be used as the deciding factor for those seeking such coverage.
White House officials said that as a result of the change, about 200,000 people would gain new coverage and nearly 1 million would see their premiums go down.
Obama pays a visit: Former President Barack Obama visited the White House for the signing ceremony and paid tribute to Biden’s effort to keep the ACA alive as it hits 12 years old, while reminding his fellow Democrats of the imperfect nature of political compromise. "The reason we're here today is because President Biden, Vice President Harris, everybody who's worked on this thing understood from the start that the ACA wasn't perfect,” Obama said. “To get the bill passed, we had to make compromises. We didn't get everything we wanted. That wasn't reason not to do it.”
At the ceremony, Biden playfully referred to the comment he made back in 2010 when Obama signed the ACA into law: “This is a big [expletive] deal,” he famously whispered to Obama in a remark that was not intended for public consumption but was broadcast for all to hear. Before signing the bill Tuesday, Biden jokingly warned Obama, “Let me remind you, it’s a hot mic.”
More favorable views: The ACA – derisively referred to as Obamacare in its early days, a name the former president embraced, neutralizing much of the sting – has been controversial from the moment it passed, with a majority of voters expressing disapproval of it during much of Obama’s two terms in office. Republicans made a lot of noise about repealing the law, but those efforts failed and talk of repeal has gone quiet, at least for now. And the law itself has risen in public opinion over time.
A recent poll by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that 55% of respondents had a favorable opinion of the ACA, while 42% had an unfavorable opinion. As The Washington Post’s Emily Gruskin writes, “the law grew more popular during the 2016 presidential election, and Americans’ opinions on the ACA improved to net positive as President Donald Trump and Republicans tried to repeal it, and since then have continued to climb. Last October, a record 58 percent of Americans were favorable toward the ACA, and 41 percent were unfavorable.”