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Week ahead: Lawmakers face fallout from Trump's ObamaCare moves

Week ahead: Lawmakers face fallout from Trump's ObamaCare moves
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All eyes are on Sens. Lamar AlexanderAndrew (Lamar) Lamar AlexanderOvernight Health Care — Presented by the Coalition for Affordable Prescription Drugs — Senate blocks Dem measure on short-term health plans | Trump signs bill banning drug price 'gag clauses' | DOJ approves Aetna-CVS merger | Juul ramps up lobbying Trump signs bills banning drug pricing 'gag clauses' Senate defeats measure to overturn Trump expansion of non-ObamaCare plans MORE (R-Tenn.) and Patty MurrayPatricia (Patty) Lynn MurrayOvernight Health Care: House passes funding bill | Congress gets deal on opioids package | 80K people died in US from flu last winter Wilkie vows no 'inappropriate influence' at VA Dems push back on using federal funds to arm teachers MORE (D-Wash.), the leaders of the Senate Health Committee who have been working to craft a bipartisan deal to stabilize the insurance markets.

Their efforts grew more urgent late Thursday night when President Trump announced he was halting key payments to insurers.

Before the Senate's weeklong recess, Alexander said he had agreed to fund the payments for two years, but there hasn't been a bipartisan agreement on an overall package.

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Known as cost-sharing reduction payments, these funds compensate insurers for discounting the out-of-pocket costs of some lower-income ObamaCare enrollees. The administration has been making the payments on a monthly basis. Meanwhile, insurers have been pleading for certainty that the payments will continue on a long-term basis.

At issue is the fact that insurers still have to offer these discounts. In their premiums, some insurers accounted for the fact the payments might not continue — but not all did. It remains to be seen if rates can be changed and also if insurers will exit the marketplaces.

"Many insurers anticipated that [cost-sharing reduction] payments might end and set their premiums accordingly," Larry Levitt, a Kaiser Family Foundation senior vice president, wrote in an email. "Some insurers were less pessimistic, and some states did not let insurers assume that [cost-sharing reduction] payments would end and hike their premiums. So, the fallout over the next few weeks will vary from state by state."

Open enrollment for people to sign up for plans on HealthCare.gov is looming, beginning Nov. 1.

But it's also unclear if Alexander and Murray can reach a deal that could reach Trump's desk. Democrats are pushing to restore the payments. But conservative lawmakers, including GOP leaders, oppose what they see as a subsidy to insurers.

The fight over Trump's move, though, could drag on. More than 15 states are also suing to stop Trump from halting the payments.

ObamaCare isn't the only big issue on the health care front.

Lawmakers are scrambling after funding for the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP), community health centers and a few other health programs expired at the end of September.

The Senate Finance Committee passed a bipartisan five-year extension of CHIP but has yet to release how it will pay for the bill.

The House Energy and Commerce Committee passed a partisan bill to fund CHIP and community health centers. But Democrats slammed the legislation's offsets, which would have cut funds to an ObamaCare public health fund and required older, wealthier Americans to pay higher Medicare premiums. Greg Walden (R-Ore.) agreed Tuesday to delay a vote on the bill, so the parties could renegotiate how to pay for the programs.

However, that effort did not appear to have yielded any changes.

"It's clear that House Republicans want to use reauthorization of children's health insurance and Community Health Centers as a way to further undermine the Affordable Care Act and weaken Medicare," the House Energy and Commerce Committee's ranking member, Rep. Frank Pallone Jr. (D-N.J), said in a statement Friday afternoon.

 

Hearings & events

The Senate is back in session Monday after a weeklong recess. The House is out of session the coming week.

The Senate Health Committee will hold a hearing Tuesday at 10 a.m. in the Dirksen Senate Office Building, room 430, on the cost of prescription drugs.

The committee will also hold a hearing titled "Examining How Healthy Choices Can Improve Health Outcomes and Reduce Costs," on Thursday at 10 a.m. in Dirksen room 430.

Axios is holding an event focused on health care Wednesday at 8 a.m. Senate Health Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), Sen. Bill CassidyWilliam (Bill) Morgan CassidyTrump signs bills banning drug pricing 'gag clauses' Dem ad accuses Heller of 'lying' about record on pre-existing conditions GOP senator suggests criminal referral for third Kavanaugh accuser's 'apparently false affidavit' MORE (R-La.) and Sen. Tim KaineTimothy (Tim) Michael KaineElection Countdown: O'Rourke brings in massive M haul | Deal on judges lets senators return to the trail | Hurricane puts Florida candidates in the spotlight | Adelson spending big to save GOP in midterms Senators warn Trump that Saudi relationship is on the line Virginia police release surveillance video from Jewish center vandalized with swastikas MORE (D-Va.) will participate.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce will hold an event titled "A Path Forward on Health Reform: Advancing Priorities and Innovative Solutions Amid Uncertainty," Wednesday at 1:30 p.m.

 

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