Key GOP senator floats tying bipartisan insurance stabilization deal to reforms

Key GOP senator floats tying bipartisan insurance stabilization deal to reforms
© Greg Nash

Sen. John CornynJohn CornynThe Hill's Morning Report - Trump on defense over economic jitters Democrats keen to take on Cornyn despite formidable challenges The Hill's Campaign Report: Battle for Senate begins to take shape MORE (R-Texas) is floating potentially tying a bipartisan deal on stabilizing the health insurance market to structural reforms favored by Republicans, after the latest bill to repeal and replace ObamaCare fell apart. 

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"Sen. [Lamar] Alexander [R-Tenn.] and Sen. [Patty] Murray [D-Wash] are working on some ideas on stabilizing the market, but more importantly, to me, Sen. [Bill] Cassidy [R-La.] and Sen. [Lindsey] Graham [R-S.C.] are looking at structural reform," the No. 2 Senate Republican told reporters Tuesday. 

Cornyn hasn't previously appeared optimistic that he would be able to support a potential deal hatched by Alexander and Murray — the top two members on the Senate Health Committee — aimed at stabilizing the insurance market and providing ObamaCare's cost-sharing reduction payments to insurance companies.

He added on Tuesday that he still wasn't optimistic of the potential agreement as a stand-alone bill, saying, "I remain unconvinced that bailing out insurance companies is going to fix the problem." 

"That's why if somehow we can combine the efforts of Cassidy and Graham for real reform, that might provide a potential solution," he said. 

The health-care bill from Graham and Cassidy would have repealed much of ObamaCare, replacing the Medicaid expansion and insurance subsidies with block grants to the states. 

Republicans put a hold to the Alexander-Murray talks as they made a last-ditch effort to repeal ObamaCare before the Sept. 30 deadline, when the rules allowing them to pass it with a simple majority expire. 

But Alexander announced Tuesday that he would restart talks with Murray and other senators to try to "find consensus on a limited bipartisan plan that could be enacted into law to help lower premiums and make insurance available to the 18 million Americans in the individual market in 2018 and 2019." 

Asked about Cornyn's comments and if there had been any talks with Graham, Cassidy or their staffs, an aide for Alexander pointed to his statement. 

Graham — asked about potentially linking up structural reforms, to a stabilization deal from Alexander and Murray — appeared open to the idea. 

"There's all kind of combinations to get us to where we want to be," he said.

"I would like to sit down with Democrats and say 'listen can we buy some time here to keep everybody, you know, from completely collapsing,' " he said.