Dems worry GOP pulling health care negotiations in partisan direction

Dems worry GOP pulling health care negotiations in partisan direction
© Greg Nash

It's unclear whether Republicans and Democrats on the Senate Health Committee will be able to reach a deal by the end of the week on a bill to shore up ObamaCare's insurance markets. 

But Democrats are worried Republicans are digging in with conservative ideas, ruining chances for negotiation, a senior Democratic aide told The Hill. 

“Republicans appear to be pulling the negotiations in a more partisan direction from their side by pushing changes that Democrats have made clear from the start they wouldn’t agree to — like rolling back protections for patients with pre-existing conditions," the aide said.

ADVERTISEMENT
Both sides have agreed to fund ObamaCare's cost-sharing reduction payments, key reimbursements to insurers for giving discounted co-pays and deductibles to low-income people. 

But Republicans also want to make changes to ObamaCare's 1332 waivers for states, which has emerged as a sticking point for the two sides.

Democrats want to protect what are known as the “guardrails,” which prevent any changes under the waivers from leading to reductions in the number of people with coverage, or less affordable or comprehensive coverage.

Republicans argue those guardrails inhibit states from innovative solutions.

Committee Chairman Lamar AlexanderAndrew (Lamar) Lamar AlexanderWeek ahead: Senators near deal to stabilize ObamaCare markets Corker pressed as reelection challenges mount Overnight Health Care: CBO predicts 15 percent ObamaCare premium hike | Trump calls Sanders single-payer plan ‘curse on the US’ | Republican seeks score of Sanders’s bill MORE (R-Tenn.) has said it would be difficult to get Republicans to support a bill that funds the payments to insurers if it doesn't also make changes to the waivers. 

“To get a Republican president and a Republican House and a Republican Senate just to vote for more money won't happen in the next two or three weeks unless there's some restructuring [of regulations],” Alexander said last week. 

But Democrats worry Republicans could undermine their ObamaCare fix with their demands. 

"There is so much common ground that Democrats want to focus on and reach a deal around, and it would be a shame if this partisan lurch undermined the potential for what should be a straightforward and bipartisan deal," the aide said. 

Meanwhile, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin HatchOrrin Grant HatchFinance to hold hearing on ObamaCare repeal bill Overnight Finance: CBO to release limited analysis of ObamaCare repeal bill | DOJ investigates Equifax stock sales | House weighs tougher rules for banks dealing with North Korea Week ahead in finance: Clock ticking for GOP on tax reform MORE (R-Utah), an influential voice in the Senate, has derided the direction the bill is taking, calling it a bail out for insurance companies. 

"Any agreement to, for example, maintain Obamacare’s cost-sharing subsidies or payments to insurance companies should also include reforms such as relief for American families and job creators from the onerous mandates and taxes," he said in a Washington Post op-ed last week.