Governors urge Congress to fund key ObamaCare payments

Governors urge Congress to fund key ObamaCare payments
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A bipartisan group of governors on Thursday called on Congress to fund key ObamaCare payments and take other steps to stabilize the health-care law.

The group of three Republican and two Democratic governors agreed that Congress should fund ObamaCare payments to insurers known as cost-sharing reductions, which President Trump has threatened to cancel in a bid to make the law “implode.”

Insurers have cited uncertainty over whether the payments will continue as a reason why they are needing to raise premiums for next year.

“It would be irresponsible to allow these markets to collapse,” said Utah Gov. Gary Herbert (R) in testimony before the Senate Health Committee, which is working on bipartisan legislation to stabilize ObamaCare markets.

He said that while he is “not a fan” of the payments, he thinks they should continue for one or two years. The market “needs predictability,” he said.

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Republicans sued President Obama for making the payments without a congressional appropriation, but many in the GOP are now looking to provide a congressional guarantee for the payments to prevent market collapse.

Sen. Lamar AlexanderLamar AlexanderMcConnell gets GOP wake-up call The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Alibaba - Democrats return to disappointment on immigration Authorities link ex-Tennessee governor to killing of Jimmy Hoffa associate MORE (R-Tenn.), chairman of the Health Committee, has floated one year for the payments, but some governors, along with Democratic lawmakers in Congress, are pushing for at least two years. 

Alexander also noted that Republicans will need something in return for providing the payments, namely added flexibility for states to change and repeal ObamaCare regulations using waivers.

Governors also called for flexibility, but the details of how much flexibility to give are in dispute.

Democrats are wary of allowing Republicans to give states too much ability to repeal ObamaCare regulations, such as the essential health benefits, which mandate that plans cover services including prescription drugs and mental health.

The governors also called for “reinsurance,” which is government funding to bring down premiums by picking up the cost of claims for especially sick enrollees. In addition to Herbert, Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker (R), Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper (D), Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam (R) and Montana Gov. Steve Bullock (D) also testified. 

Democrats are pushing for it, but Alexander has warned that it costs too much money and instead states could enact the program on their own.

Alexander has set a tight timeline of next week for reaching a deal, a tough task on such a polarizing issue.