Dems float putting ObamaCare money in funding deal
Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) is signaling Democrats will try to get ObamaCare’s insurer subsidy payments included in a December funding deal, adding another legislative item to an already packed end-of-the-year schedule.
“I think we’re going to have a very good opportunity in the omnibus to get this done in a bipartisan way, if we can’t get it done sooner,” Schumer told reporters during a conference call on Friday.
“Democrats are going to work very hard to get these cost-sharing payments restored, but remember there are a whole lot of Republicans who want to get them restored, too.”
The Trump administration announced on Thursday night that it was nixing ObamaCare’s cost-sharing reduction payments. The administration said that it “cannot lawfully make” the payments to insurers because they weren’t appropriated under the Affordable Care Act.
Lawmakers could restore the payments, but they are facing a crowded schedule.
In addition to the subsidy payments, government funding expires on Dec. 8, Democrats want a deal on undocumented immigrations and Congress needs to reauthorize a surveillance program.
Democrats believe they have leverage going into December, when Republicans will need their vote to fund the government.
Schumer said there “may well be other vehicles” for the payments if Sens. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and Patty Murray (D-Wash.) can get a deal.
“I think they’re still trying to come to an agreement. We’ll see how that goes. They both are good negotiators,” he told reporters, asked about the status of the talks.”[But] I don’t know what’s happened in the last day.”
Alexander and Murray, the top members of the Senate Health Committee, are trying to reach a deal on legislation to provide the payments to insurers in return for more flexibility on state waivers and the ability to buy “copper plans” that include less coverage but are cheaper.
Murray added that they were still talking and she believes “we can reach a deal quickly.”
Trump had flirted with nixing the payments to insurers for months. His decision on Thursday night drew swift criticism Democrats, as well as some Republicans, who warned that the move could destabilize the individual insurance market.
Schumer said the decision would be “devastating for millions of Americans” and warned that Republicans will face backlash if Congress isn’t able to pass a bill providing the payments.
“Republicans in the House and Senate now own the healthcare system in this country from top to bottom,” he said. “Their destructive actions and the actions of the president are going to fall on their backs.”
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