Week ahead: Senators near deal to stabilize ObamaCare markets

Week ahead: Senators near deal to stabilize ObamaCare markets
© Greg Nash

The leaders of the Senate Health Committee expressed optimism Thursday that a bipartisan deal to stabilize the insurance markets was within reach.

The goal, according to Chairman Lamar AlexanderAndrew (Lamar) Lamar AlexanderOvernight Finance: Trump says shutdown 'could happen' | Ryan, conservatives inch closer to spending deal | Senate approves motion to go to tax conference | Ryan promises 'entitlement reform' in 2018 Senate approves motion to go to tax conference House conservatives, Ryan inch closer toward spending deal MORE (R-Tenn.), is to put the final touches on a bipartisan package the week of Sept. 18 with the hope the Senate will pass it by the end of the month.

The panel held four hearings on the topic over the past two weeks, bringing in governors, insurance commissioners and experts as Alexander and the committee's top Democrat, Sen. Patty MurrayPatricia (Patty) Lynn MurrayDemocrats turn on Al Franken VA slashes program that helps homeless veterans obtain housing: report The Hill's 12:30 Report MORE (Wash.), attempt to craft a deal to help the insurance markets.

ADVERTISEMENT

At the final hearing on Thursday, Alexander laid out the main themes that emerged throughout the hours of discussion, and it's expected this could serve as the framework for a deal.

One, funding cost-sharing reduction payments, which insurers receive from the federal government as payment for lowering the out-of-pocket costs of some ObamaCare enrollees.

Second, letting people of all ages buy "copper plans," which are essentially catastrophic coverage with lower premiums and higher deductibles.

Third, giving states more flexibility to approve health insurance plans and rates.

Meanwhile, four GOP senators are pushing a last-ditch effort to repeal and replace ObamaCare.

Time isn't on their side, as the fast-track vehicle Republicans were using to gut ObamaCare expires at the end of the month. Republicans are using a budget maneuver, called reconciliation, because it avoids a Democratic filibuster.

On Wednesday, GOP Sens. Bill CassidyWilliam (Bill) Morgan CassidyTax bill could fuel push for Medicare, Social Security cuts Collins to vote for GOP tax plan Overnight Tech: Lawmakers want answers on Uber breach | Justices divided in patent case | Tech makes plea for net neutrality on Cyber Monday MORE (La.), Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamGOP and Dems bitterly divided by immigration We are running out of time to protect Dreamers US trade deficit rises on record imports from China MORE (S.C.), Ron JohnsonRonald (Ron) Harold JohnsonOvernight Cybersecurity: Panel pushes agencies on dropping Kaspersky software | NC county won't pay ransom to hackers | Lawmakers sound alarm over ISIS 'cyber caliphate' GOP chairman warns of ISIS's ‘cyber caliphate’ Overnight Finance: House approves motion to go to tax conference — with drama | GOP leaders to consider Dec. 30 spending bill | Justices skeptical of ban on sports betting | Mulvaney won't fire official who sued him MORE (Wis.) and Dean HellerDean Arthur HellerDems look to use Moore against GOP Senate hearing shows Fed chair nominee acts the part Senate GOP votes to begin debate on tax bill MORE (Nev.) released the newest ObamaCare repeal bill. The measure seeks to give control to the states.

Specifically, the bill moves money for ObamaCare's Medicaid expansion, tax credits and cost-sharing reduction payments, and provides block grants to states with those funds. It also repeals the individual and employer insurance mandates and the medical device tax.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellGOP strategist donates to Alabama Democrat McConnell names Senate GOP tax conferees Brent Budowsky: A plea to Alabama voters MORE (R-Ky.) has told Graham and Cassidy they need to find the votes themselves. Senate Majority Whip John CornynJohn CornynMcConnell names Senate GOP tax conferees Air Force makes criminal reporting changes after Texas massacre We need a better pathway for allowing civilians to move guns across state lines MORE (R-Texas) is measuring support for the bill, and GOP leadership has asked the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) to prioritize an analysis of the legislation.

But Cassidy has expressed optimism he is close to getting the votes needed.

"I am pretty confident we'll get there on the Republican side," Cassidy told reporters in his office on Friday. "We're probably at 48-49 [votes] and talking to two or three more."

So far, no other measure — even a scaled down version of a repeal bill — has been able to garner the votes needed to pass the Senate. There's little room for error, as Republicans control 52 seats.

On Friday, Sen. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulLexington mayor launches bid for Congress Trump-free Kennedy Center Honors avoids politics Meet the Iran hawk who could be Trump's next secretary of State MORE (R-Ky.) came out in opposition to the measure, calling it "Obamacare Lite" in a tweet.

But there's more going on in the health world than just ObamaCare repeal.

The Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP), as well as funding for community health centers and Medicare extenders, is set to lapse on Sept. 30 if Congress doesn't reauthorize the programs.

The Senate Finance Committee announced a deal on a five-year reauthorization of CHIP. As of early Friday afternoon, the House hasn't yet announced any such package.

There also isn't much time, as the House is out this week and the Senate is only in for half of the week.

Also on Capitol Hill in the coming week, the Senate Special Committee on Aging is holding a hearing titled "Disaster Preparedness and Response: The Special Needs of Older Americans." It will be held Wednesday in the Dirksen Senate Office building, room 562, at 9 a.m.

 

In case you missed it

Insurer Anthem to cover bare ObamaCare counties in Virginia

GOP senator says he nearly has the votes for ObamaCare repeal

Senator asks for CBO score of Sanders's single payer bill

Walden hints at nursing home oversight in wake of Hurricane Irma deaths

Senate health panel aims for deal on stabilizing markets early next week

Ryan on Senate repeal effort: 'I'll take federalism over ObamaCare any day'

Price says working toward declaring opioid crisis national emergency

Trump cuts to ObamaCare outreach to hit red states most

CBO: ObamaCare uncertainty will lead to 15 percent hike in premiums

Trump calls Sanders's single payer plan a 'curse on the US'