GOP chairman pushes for ObamaCare payments to be made

GOP chairman pushes for ObamaCare payments to be made
© Victoria Sarno Jordan

A top Senate Republican is calling for critical payments to insurers to be funded through 2019 either by administrative action, legislation or both. 

At a hearing Thursday, Sen. Lamar AlexanderAndrew (Lamar) Lamar AlexanderMcConnell blocks House bill to reopen government for second time Senators restart shutdown talks — and quickly hit roadblocks GOP senators propose bill to pay 'excepted' workers during shutdown MORE (R-Tenn.) — the chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee — made the recommendation for making the payments to Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Tom Price.

Alexander has been urging Congress to temporarily “repair” ObamaCare as Republicans work to dismantle and replace it.  

“The payments will help to avoid the real possibility that millions of Americans will literally have zero options for insurance in the individual market in 2018,” Alexander said at a Senate Appropriations subcommittee hearing on the HHS budget request.  


Meanwhile, insurers are pleading for certainty that the administration or Congress will fund cost-sharing reduction (CSR) payments, which compensate insurers for lowering the out-of-pocket costs for some lower-income Americans.  

They’re in the midst of deciding whether they’ll sell plans on the ObamaCare exchanges and how much those plans will cost. Meanwhile, the administration hasn’t said how long it will continue to fund these payments, totaling about $7 billion this year. 

The issue is currently tied up in court. 

The House sued the Obama administration, saying it was illegally funding the payments. The court sided with the House, a decision the Obama administration appealed. The case is currently on hold.  

When Price was sworn in as HHS secretary, he became the defendant in the case. He told Alexander that as the defendant, he’s not able to comment beyond noting that “the budget reflects the continuation of the CSR payments until the litigation is resolved.” 

Price said as much at a Senate Finance Committee last week.

Later that same day, Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady (R-Texas) said: “We should act within our constitutional authority now to temporarily and legally fund cost-sharing reduction payments as we move away from ObamaCare and toward a patient-centered system that truly works for the American people.” 

He told reporters this week that he’s working with leadership and the administration on a path forward, adding that there hadn’t been a decision on a “vehicle for doing this.”