GOP gives ground in ObamaCare stabilization talks

GOP gives ground in ObamaCare stabilization talks
© Greg Nash

Republicans are willing to provide insurers with two years of ObamaCare subsidies under a bipartisan market stabilization bill, according to the Senate Health Committee chairman.

Sen. Lamar AlexanderAndrew (Lamar) Lamar AlexanderGOP senator: ObamaCare fix could be in funding bill Collins: Pass bipartisan ObamaCare bills before mandate repeal Murkowski: ObamaCare fix not a precondition for tax vote MORE (R-Tenn.) said continuing cost-sharing reduction subsidies for two years is a key part of the stabilization package he is trying to negotiate with Sen. Patty MurrayPatricia (Patty) Lynn MurrayGOP senator: ObamaCare fix could be in funding bill Collins: Pass bipartisan ObamaCare bills before mandate repeal Murkowski: ObamaCare fix not a precondition for tax vote MORE (D-Wash.).

Alexander and Murray are continuing to try to rally Republicans and Democrats around a short-term plan to lower ObamaCare premiums in 2018 and 2019.

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“The elements of that are continuing cost-sharing payments for two years and to give states meaningful flexibility in the types of policies they can write,” Alexander said Tuesday.

Alexander initially only wanted to fund the payments for one year, while Democrats were pressing for two years.

Republicans pulled the plug on the bipartisan talks when it appeared their last-ditch ObamaCare repeal bill was gaining momentum, but the change in Alexander’s position could be a sign that he and Murray are closing in on an agreement.

The White House has been making the cost-sharing payments on a monthly basis, all while President Trump has continued to threaten to cancel them in a bid to make ObamaCare “implode.”

While Alexander and Murray may be close, the future of the bipartisan fix is unclear.

Many other Senate Republicans, including Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin HatchOrrin Grant HatchProminent conservative passes on Utah Senate bid Republicans offer this impossible choice: Tax cuts or senior care Senate GOP running out of options to stop Moore MORE (R-Utah), are more skeptical of a deal to stabilize ObamaCare than Alexander is.

And the House and White House are also uncertainties.

Alexander said the talks are continuing, and he and Murray plan to meet later on Tuesday.

Asked whether GOP leadership is urging him to continue the talks, Alexander said he thinks they have more important things to worry about.

“Well, I’m telling them that I am continuing the talks. They have lots of other things to worry about today,” he said.