Dems worry GOP pulling health care negotiations in partisan direction

Dems worry GOP pulling health care negotiations in partisan direction
© Greg Nash

It's unclear whether Republicans and Democrats on the Senate Health Committee will be able to reach a deal by the end of the week on a bill to shore up ObamaCare's insurance markets. 

But Democrats are worried Republicans are digging in with conservative ideas, ruining chances for negotiation, a senior Democratic aide told The Hill. 

“Republicans appear to be pulling the negotiations in a more partisan direction from their side by pushing changes that Democrats have made clear from the start they wouldn’t agree to — like rolling back protections for patients with pre-existing conditions," the aide said.

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Both sides have agreed to fund ObamaCare's cost-sharing reduction payments, key reimbursements to insurers for giving discounted co-pays and deductibles to low-income people. 

But Republicans also want to make changes to ObamaCare's 1332 waivers for states, which has emerged as a sticking point for the two sides.

Democrats want to protect what are known as the “guardrails,” which prevent any changes under the waivers from leading to reductions in the number of people with coverage, or less affordable or comprehensive coverage.

Republicans argue those guardrails inhibit states from innovative solutions.

Committee Chairman Lamar AlexanderAndrew (Lamar) Lamar AlexanderOvernight Health Care — Presented by PCMA — Senators unveil sweeping bipartisan health care package | House lawmakers float Medicare pricing reforms | Dems offer bill to guarantee abortion access Bipartisan senators reveal sweeping health care package Collins offering bill to boost battery research as GOP pushes energy 'innovation' MORE (R-Tenn.) has said it would be difficult to get Republicans to support a bill that funds the payments to insurers if it doesn't also make changes to the waivers. 

“To get a Republican president and a Republican House and a Republican Senate just to vote for more money won't happen in the next two or three weeks unless there's some restructuring [of regulations],” Alexander said last week. 

But Democrats worry Republicans could undermine their ObamaCare fix with their demands. 

"There is so much common ground that Democrats want to focus on and reach a deal around, and it would be a shame if this partisan lurch undermined the potential for what should be a straightforward and bipartisan deal," the aide said. 

Meanwhile, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin HatchOrrin Grant HatchTrump gambles in push for drug import proposal Biden's role in Anita Hill hearings defended by witness not allowed to testify 'Congress' worst tax idea ever'? Hardly. MORE (R-Utah), an influential voice in the Senate, has derided the direction the bill is taking, calling it a bail out for insurance companies. 

"Any agreement to, for example, maintain Obamacare’s cost-sharing subsidies or payments to insurance companies should also include reforms such as relief for American families and job creators from the onerous mandates and taxes," he said in a Washington Post op-ed last week.