After repeal failure, GOP senators propose ObamaCare subsidy patch

After repeal failure, GOP senators propose ObamaCare subsidy patch
© Greg Nash

As House Republicans struggle to find a way to repeal ObamaCare, the two GOP senators from Tennessee are looking to temporarily fix an issue that may strike the health insurance exchanges next year. 

A bill introduced by Sens. Lamar AlexanderAndrew (Lamar) Lamar AlexanderNegotiators hit gas on coronavirus talks as frustration mounts Chamber of Commerce endorses Ernst for reelection Pelosi huddles with chairmen on surprise billing but deal elusive MORE and Bob CorkerRobert (Bob) Phillips CorkerCheney clashes with Trump Sessions-Tuberville Senate runoff heats up in Alabama GOP lawmakers stick to Trump amid new criticism MORE would allow people to use their ObamaCare subsidies to purchase any state-approved plan on the private market if there are no insurers selling policies on the federal exchange in their county. 

Big insurers such as UnitedHealth and Aetna have mostly left the individual market over the years, citing financial reasons. Thirty-two percent of counties across the country only have one insurer offering ObamaCare plans.

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Meanwhile, 34,000 people living in metro-area Knoxville, Tenn., will have no options on the exchanges after Humana announced it would not participate in 2018. 

More insurers may decide to drop out of the market next year given the uncertainty of the GOP's repeal effort. 

"We need to act. We're talking about giving people peace of mind, particularly if you're a low-income person and you have a fear that in 2018 you won't have any health insurance," Alexander told reporters Thursday. 

"That's not a political issue. That's a personal issue." 

The bill would also waive ObamaCare's fine for not having insurance for people living in counties with no insurers on the exchanges. If passed, it would remain in effect through the end of the 2019 plan year. 

House Republicans say they're looking to restart their effort on repealing ObamaCare but have offered no timeline or specifics.