Governors-turned-senators meet to talk healthcare

Governors-turned-senators meet to talk healthcare
© Keren Carrion

A bipartisan group of governors-turned-senators met Tuesday night to discuss a path forward on healthcare, with both Democrats and Republicans saying they had a positive discussion.

Participants did not provide a full list of the lawmakers who attended the meeting.

“It was a very informal gathering,” Sen. Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinMorrisey accuses Manchin of 'lying' to Trump, attacks ‘liberal’ record The Hill's Morning Report — Trump, Putin meet under cloud of Mueller’s Russia indictments Doug Jones walks tightrope on Supreme Court nominee MORE (D-W.Va.) told The Hill. “I've always believed this, if recovering governors can't find a way forward, it's not going to be found here.”

Sen. Tom CarperThomas (Tom) Richard CarperNew EPA chief draws sharp contrast to Pruitt Overnight Energy: New EPA head looks to reassure staff | New round of ex-Pruitt staffers leave | House votes to overhaul fisheries law | Trump rips Germany for pipeline deal with Russia Dems grasp for way to stop Trump's Supreme Court pick MORE (D-Del.) said senators shared their “individual perspectives.”

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“There was general agreement around the need to return to regular order. There was also a realization that for most of us the exchanges can be stabilized, need to be stabilized."

The meeting comes as the GOP bill has stalled in the Senate, and Republican senators head to the White House for lunch Wednesday in an attempt to chart a path forward on healthcare.

It’s clear the GOP doesn’t have the votes to proceed to debate on an ObamaCare repeal bill, and several moderate senators have called for committee hearings and bipartisanship on the issue that has showcased deep divisions between Republicans this year.

Carper said there were “several” Republicans at the meeting, though he declined to name them. Carper himself called by phone into the meeting, which Manchin organized.

Sen. Mike Rounds (S.D), one Republican who attended, called the meeting “friendly,” saying it was a “chance to share our thoughts on what direction we could go.”

“We talk[ed] about what we see as solutions and what might be a good solution — and whether or not we agree on what some of the solutions are,” Rounds said.

For example, there’s agreement on ensuring Medicaid’s long-term stability, Rounds said.

“I think it's fair to say all of us agree we've got to make changes,” Rounds said. “The question is do you set out a goal to begin with and then try to get states to live within that goal, or do you go back to the states saying we're going to give you incentives?”

Senators agreed to meet again, Rounds said, though another one isn’t yet on the books.

There has been increasing talk about a bipartisan stabilization bill that could include guaranteed ObamaCare payments to insurers known as cost-sharing reductions. President Trump has threatened to cancel those payments, which insurers say would lead to chaos in the market.

Insurers have pushed for this funding, which totals about $7 billion for fiscal 2017, saying they need certainty the money will continue to be paid as they set the costs of premiums and decide if they’ll participate in ObamaCare’s exchanges.

Democrats are also pushing for funding to reduce premiums for high-cost enrollees, known as “reinsurance.”

Sen. Lamar AlexanderAndrew (Lamar) Lamar AlexanderSens introduce bipartisan bill matching Zinke proposed maintenance backlog fix Supreme Court vacancy throws Senate battle into chaos Overnight Health Care: Anti-abortion groups see chance to overturn Roe v. Wade with Kennedy retirement | HHS watchdog to probe detention center conditions | VA pick vows to oppose privatization MORE (R-Tenn.) — chairman of the Senate Health Committee — has called hearings on ways to stabilize the market, saying he’ll consult with Senate leadership and then schedule a date after the Senate votes on a healthcare bill.