GOP chairman rips bipartisan proposal as 'bailout' of ObamaCare

GOP chairman rips bipartisan proposal as 'bailout' of ObamaCare
© Keren Carrion

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin HatchOrrin Grant HatchPhRMA CEO 'hopeful' Trump officials will back down on drug pricing move Live coverage: Trump AG pick grilled on Mueller probe at confirmation hearing Trump praises RNC chairwoman after she criticizes her uncle Mitt Romney MORE (R-Utah) on Tuesday derided bipartisan efforts to shore up ObamaCare's insurance market as a "bailout." 

"At this point, it’s pretty clear that the parties will need to work together if any of this is going to improve. That said, I am concerned that many of the proposals for a bipartisan solution would amount to little more than a bailout of the current system," Hatch said in his opening remarks at his committee's health-care hearing Tuesday.

"This, in my view, would be a mistake."

Hatch's comments come as the Senate Health Committee works on a bipartisan bill that would likely fund ObamaCare subsidy payments to insurers known as cost-sharing reductions. Those payments reimburse insurers for giving discounted deductibles and co-pays to low-income customers. 

Some Republicans have been critical of the payments, echoing Hatch in calling them a "bailout" for insurance companies. 

Insurers have threatened to leave the markets or hike premiums if the payments don't continue. 

Senate Health Committee Chairman Lamar AlexanderAndrew (Lamar) Lamar AlexanderGrassley to test GOP on lowering drug prices McConnell blocks House bill to reopen government for second time Senators restart shutdown talks — and quickly hit roadblocks MORE (R-Tenn.) supports funding the payments as a way to stabilize the insurance markets in conjunction with other reforms, like changes to ObamaCare's 1332 state waivers to provide for more flexibility.

But Hatch said any bill that funds the subsidy payments also needs to make substantive changes to the health-care law. 

He specifically mentioned the possibility of rolling back some of ObamaCare's taxes and "rolling back, or at least amending the individual and employer mandates, two of the most unpopular components in Obamacare."

"If we simply throw money into the system to maintain cost-sharing subsidies or make payments to insurers, without fixing any of the underlying problems, we would just be setting up yet another cliff, and likely another partisan showdown, in the future," Hatch said.

"But let me be clear: In my view, an Obamacare bailout that is not accompanied by real reforms would be inadvisable. We can’t simply invest more resources into a broken system and hope that it fixes itself over time." 

Democratic and Republican health-care experts will testify at the Finance Committee hearing Tuesday about possible long-term reforms to ObamaCare.