The stimulus bill would make upper-middle-income Americans newly eligible for financial help to buy plans on the federal marketplaces, and the premiums for those plans would cost no more than 8.5 percent of an individual’s modified adjusted gross income. It would also increase subsidies for lower-income enrollees.
The White House and Democratic backers of the bill say its health care provisions represent the most significant expansion of the Affordable Care Act since it was passed, and perhaps the only expansion politically possible. With an evenly divided Senate, they note, there is very little chance of passage for a more fundamental restructuring, like Medicare for All.
“I understand the desire to really overhaul the system and make it simpler, but I think there is also the political reality of what can be pushed through,” Dr. Emanuel said.
Health care remains a powerful political selling point for Democrats with voters, who consistently give Democrats an edge when asked which party they trust most to handle the issue. Republicans have spent the last decade trying to undermine the Affordable Care Act in the courts and trying to repeal it in Congress — without success.
“I think that argument has been fought and lost,” said Whit Ayres, a Republican pollster, conceding that the repeal efforts are over, at least for now, with Democrats in charge of the White House and both houses of Congress.
Republicans have always said that their plan was to repeal and replace the health law, but after 10 years they have yet to come up with a replacement. Mr. Ayres said his firm is working on “coming up with some alternative health care message” that does not involve “simply throwing everybody into a government-run health care problem.”
Yet polls show that the idea of a government-run program is gaining traction with voters. In September, the Pew Research Center reported that over the previous year, there had been an increase, especially among Democrats, in the share of Americans who say health insurance should be provided by a single national program run by the government.