OPIOID SERIES:

Senators reach tentative deal on ObamaCare insurer payments

 
The two senators are chairman and ranking member, respectively, of the Senate Health Committee.
 
The deal would extend the payments to insurers for two years and give states more flexibility to change ObamaCare rules. The negotiations had been aimed at stabilizing insurance markets.
 
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Trump, who was holding a press conference with Greek's prime minister as Alexander spoke with reporters, said what had been negotiated represented a "short-term" deal.
 
The president said that he could support the deal, but argued an executive order he issued last week designed to change insurance markets represented a better path forward on health care.
 
Democrats were more positive, though Murray told reporters that there were a few "irons" to work out, suggesting the deal may not be completely final.
 
Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) said he was "pleased" with the deal and urged Republican leaders to take it up as soon as possible. He said the measure includes "anti-sabotage" measures, an apparent reference to restoring the outreach funding. 
 
Even with Trump's support, it's not entirely clear that a deal negotiated by Alexander and Murray can get through Congress. 
 
In the House, in particular, Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanScalise released from hospital after planned surgery GOP sold Americans a bill of goods with tax reform law Impeaching Rosenstein? Some Republicans are talking about it MORE (R-Wis.) may face opposition from conservatives in his own conference over any deal that might be seen as saving ObamaCare.
 
When Republicans in the Senate made a last-ditch effort to repeal ObamaCare in September, the Alexander-Murray talks were cut off, with some GOP senators saying their bipartisan efforts would go nowhere in the House.
 
The chairman of the conservative Republican Study Committee caucus quickly criticized the deal, arguing it would "prop up" the existing health-care law.
 
"Anything propping it up is only saving what Republicans promised to dismantle," said Rep. Mark Walker (R-N.C.), the caucus chairman.
 
It is also not clear that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellPompeo lacks votes for positive vote on panel GOP poised to advance rules change to speed up Trump nominees Trump has not invited Democrats, media to state dinner: report MORE (R-Ky.) will bring the measure to the floor — nor is it clear it would win 60 votes on procedural motions, the threshold for breaking a filibuster.
 
Senate Majority Whip John CornynJohn CornynRepublicans divided over legislation protecting Mueller Democrats mull audacious play to block Pompeo Overnight Energy: Senate confirms Bridenstine as NASA chief | Watchdog probes Pruitt’s use of security detail | Emails shine light on EPA science policy changes MORE (R-Texas) said the caucus was still trying to learn the details of the deal. He said if Trump supports it, and if the deal is a "first step to repealing and replacing ObamaCare," then "it represents some progress."
 
The deal would restore $106 million in ObamaCare outreach funding that was cut by President Trump, according to a Democratic aide.
 
In a concession to Republicans, the deal would also amend a "guardrail" in ObamaCare to give states more flexibility to change rules through a waiver. States would be allowed to make changes as long as they allowed "comparable" affordability to consumers, according to Alexander.
 
He said minimum standards for what insurance must cover have not been changed, which represents a priority for Democrats negotiating the compromise.
 
The deal would also allow people to buy lower cost, less generous "copper" plans, a Republican request.