Week ahead: Senate panel looks to quickly strike deal on ObamaCare fix

Week ahead: Senate panel looks to quickly strike deal on ObamaCare fix
© Greg Nash

The Senate Health Committee is aiming to reach a deal in the coming week on a bipartisan bill aimed at stabilizing ObamaCare's shaky insurance markets.

However, timing is a challenge if Congress wants to have an impact on premiums and insurer participation in 2018.

Insurers must sign contracts by the end of September to participate next year, meaning Congress would have to pass a bill before that deadline

But there are still disagreements over the specifics of the bill, which Chairman Lamar AlexanderAndrew (Lamar) Lamar AlexanderThe Hill's Morning Report - How will Trump be received in Dayton and El Paso? McConnell faces pressure to bring Senate back for gun legislation Criminal justice reform should extend to student financial aid MORE (R-Tenn.) and ranking member Patty MurrayPatricia (Patty) Lynn MurrayOvernight Health Care: Planned Parenthood to leave federal family planning program absent court action | Democrats demand Trump withdraw rule on transgender health | Cummings, Sanders investigate three drug companies for 'obstructing' probe Democrats demand Trump officials withdraw rule on transgender health The Hill's Morning Report - Progressives, centrists clash in lively Democratic debate MORE (D-Wash.) hope to work out by the end of the week.

Democrats want the bill to include multiple years of funding for key insurer payments, known as cost-sharing reduction (CSR) subsidies, while Republicans only want one year.

Insurers have threatened to leave the market or hike premiums if they don't get more certainty on these payments.

But a bigger sticking point is the changes Republicans want to make to ObamaCare's 1332 waivers.

Expanding these waivers would potentially allow states to opt out of some of the law’s requirements, and Democrats worry this could undo patient protections.

Alexander warned Democrats Thursday that if they want Congress to fund the CSRs, they need to sign off on some ObamaCare reforms.

"It's pretty easy to be for extending cost-sharing payments and that's just more money, and we can argue about how long it will be. But we will have no chance of getting that, unless in addition to that, we have some restructuring of the market," Alexander said during Thursday's hearing.

"Part of which could be with making Section 1332 work better."

The committee will hold a hearing focused on the waivers Tuesday with a final hearing Thursday with testimony from stakeholder groups.

Governors and state insurance officials testified before the committee after lawmakers returned from their month-long recess.

Most Republicans appear to have moved on from trying to repeal ObamaCare this year, Sens. Bill CassidyWilliam (Bill) Morgan CassidyI'm not a Nazi, I'm just a dude: What it's like to be the other Steve King Washington takes historic step forward on paid parental leave The 23 Republicans who opposed Trump-backed budget deal MORE (R-La.) and Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamGraham warns Trump on Taliban deal in Afghanistan: Learn from 'Obama's mistakes' Appropriators warn White House against clawing back foreign aid Trump meets with national security team on Afghanistan peace plan MORE (R-S.C.) are still trying to push ahead with their own bill, which would block grant large portions of ObamaCare's funding to the states. Cassidy said he would introduce the bill Monday.

It's a long-shot, however, as the 2017 reconciliation bill Republicans were using to push through ObamaCare repeal and avoid a Democratic filibuster expires at the end of the month.

Their bill did get an endorsement from the White House, with Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway saying Wednesday that the president would sign it if Congress passes it.

Also the coming week, the Senate Finance Committee will hold a hearing focusing on health care costs and coverage.

"In the seven years since Obamacare was signed into law, healthcare premiums have skyrocketed and in turn middle-class Americans have been saddled with increasingly higher taxes and healthcare costs," Finance Chairman Orrin HatchOrrin Grant HatchTrump to award racing legend Roger Penske with Presidential Medal of Freedom Trump awards Presidential Medal of Freedom to economist, former Reagan adviser Arthur Laffer Second ex-Senate staffer charged in aiding doxxing of GOP senators MORE (R-Utah) said in a statement.

"This hearing will allow Senate Finance Committee members to hear from experts about the drivers of increasing healthcare costs and the importance of significant, long-term reforms to Obamacare."

Congress is also nearing a deadline to renew funding for the popular Children's Health Insurance Program. Funding expires at the end of September.

 

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Hearings and events

The Senate Health Committee is holding a hearing Tuesday, titled "Stabilizing Premiums and Helping Individuals in the Individual Market for 2018: State Flexibility." The hearing is at the Dirksen Senate Office Building, room 430, at 10 a.m.

The Senate Health Committee is holding a hearing Thursday, titled "Stabilizing Premiums and Helping Individuals in the Individual Market for 2018: Health Care Stakeholders." The hearing is at the Dirksen Senate Office Building, room 430, at 10 a.m.

The Senate Finance Committee is holding a hearing Tuesday, titled "Health Care: Issues Impacting Cost and Coverage." The hearing is at the Dirksen Senate Office Building, room 215, at 10 a.m.

 

The Hill events

Join us Tuesday, September 12 for "Turning Genes into Medicine: Reimagining Our Health Care System," featuring Rep. Suzan DelBene (D-Wash.) and Rep. Patrick Meehan (R-Pa.). Topics of discussion include incentivizing medical innovation and the impact of new treatments on the American health ecosystem and patients. RSVP Here

Join us Wednesday, September 13 for "America's Opioid Epidemic: Search for Solutions," featuring Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and Rep. Paul Tonko (D-N.Y.). Topics of discussion include national and local strategies to tackle the opioid crisis, and addressing and eliminating barriers to treatment and recovery. RSVP Here

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