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The Big Number: Here’s how many people could face higher health-insurance premiums next year if Congress doesn’t make a deal

Congressional Democrats’ ambitions for a major climate and social spending bill may dwindle to a measure to reform drug prices and extend health-insurance subsidies past the end of this year.

While wrangling over an eventual measure is continuing on Capitol Hill, it’s clear what’s at stake for Americans who receive subsidies to reduce what they pay in health-insurance premiums.

If Affordable Care Act — or Obamacare — subsidies expanded through the American Rescue Plan Act expire early next year, premium payments will increase across the board for 13 million people, according to an estimate from the Kaiser Family Foundation.

The subsidies have been thrust back into the spotlight in Washington, as an Associated Press report late Thursday said key Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin plans to support what’s known as a reconciliation bill only if it’s limited to curbing pharmaceutical
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prices and extending Obamacare premium subsidies. He will oppose including climate
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or energy provisions or higher taxes on the rich or corporations, the report added.

As MarketWatch has written, analysts at Capital Alpha Partners have emphasized that Democrats must act before Sept. 30 to extend the Affordable Care Act subsidies that are due to expire, saying it would be “politically disastrous” for the party to have that aid go away just before November’s midterm elections.

Also see: Republicans still favored in midterm elections, but their chances for taking back Senate are dropping

The subsidies are set to expire at the end of the calendar year, but Sept. 30 is the deadline for a reconciliation package because that’s the end of the federal government’s fiscal year.

Last year, Manchin, of West Virginia, blocked a roughly $2 trillion version of a Democratic climate-and-social-spending bill, pressing for a smaller plan. This week, the senator sounded a fresh alarm over inflation in the wake of a hotter-than-expected consumer-price reading for June.

MarketWatch’s Victor Reklaitis contributed to this story.

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