President Joe Biden announced Tuesday that his administration had expanded Obamacare.
Congress didn’t legislate the expansion. The Internal Revenue Service did.
The IRS scrapped an Obama administration regulation that faithfully implemented the Obamacare statute, officially called the Affordable Care Act, which became law in 2010 on a party-line vote.
At issue is whether dependents of a worker with an offer of employer-sponsored coverage can shun that coverage and claim premium tax subsidies for Obamacare policies instead.
The statute and the Obama administration regulation were clear on this point. Such dependents qualify for tax-subsidized policies only if the cost of self-only employer-sponsored coverage exceeds 9.5% of the worker’s household income. If not, neither the worker nor her dependents could receive Obamacare premium subsidies.
Many complained about this provision, which they called the “family glitch.” They said that dependents should be eligible for subsidies if premiums for employer-sponsored family coverage—rather than self-only coverage—were too costly. The Obama administration rejected this approach and followed the law as Congress wrote it.
In the intervening 12 years, lawmakers have introduced bills to base eligibility for subsidies on the cost of family coverage. Congress adopted none of them.