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 AlexanderHouse leaves out ObamaCare fix from must-pass funding bill Overnight Health Care: Trump vows tougher borders to fight opioids | Senate considers vote to add ObamaCare fix to spending bill | Anti-abortion clinics take First Amendment case to high court Senate considers vote to add ObamaCare fix to spending bill 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 MurrayLiberals seek ouster of HHS official blocking abortions CBO: Bill to shore up ObamaCare would reduce premiums by 10 percent Congress must stabilize the ACA to stabilize small businesses 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.


“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 HatchSenate GOP: Legislation to protect Mueller not needed Week ahead: Lawmakers scramble to avoid another shutdown Lighthizer set to testify before Senate Finance on trade next week 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.