Senators reach tentative deal on ObamaCare insurer payments

Sen. Lamar AlexanderAndrew (Lamar) Lamar AlexanderFinding a path forward to end surprise medical billing The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by JUUL Labs - Trump attack on progressive Dems draws sharp rebuke Republicans make U-turn on health care MORE (R-Tenn.) said Tuesday that he and Sen. Patty MurrayPatricia (Patty) Lynn MurrayFinding a path forward to end surprise medical billing Trump's new labor chief alarms Democrats, unions Overnight Health Care — Presented by PCMA — Sanders mounts staunch defense of 'Medicare for All' | Biden, Sanders fight over health care heats up | House votes to repeal ObamaCare 'Cadillac Tax' | Dems want details on fetal tissue research ban MORE (D-Wash.) have reached a bipartisan deal that would extend payments to insurers under ObamaCare that President Trump said he was ending last week.
 
The two senators are chairman and ranking member, respectively, of the Senate Health Committee.
 
The deal would extend the payments to insurers for two years and give states more flexibility to change ObamaCare rules. The negotiations had been aimed at stabilizing insurance markets.
 
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Trump, who was holding a press conference with Greek's prime minister as Alexander spoke with reporters, said what had been negotiated represented a "short-term" deal.
 
The president said that he could support the deal, but argued an executive order he issued last week designed to change insurance markets represented a better path forward on health care.
 
Democrats were more positive, though Murray told reporters that there were a few "irons" to work out, suggesting the deal may not be completely final.
 
Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) said he was "pleased" with the deal and urged Republican leaders to take it up as soon as possible. He said the measure includes "anti-sabotage" measures, an apparent reference to restoring the outreach funding. 
 
Even with Trump's support, it's not entirely clear that a deal negotiated by Alexander and Murray can get through Congress. 
 
 
When Republicans in the Senate made a last-ditch effort to repeal ObamaCare in September, the Alexander-Murray talks were cut off, with some GOP senators saying their bipartisan efforts would go nowhere in the House.
 
The chairman of the conservative Republican Study Committee caucus quickly criticized the deal, arguing it would "prop up" the existing health-care law.
 
"Anything propping it up is only saving what Republicans promised to dismantle," said Rep. Mark Walker (R-N.C.), the caucus chairman.
 
It is also not clear that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellMcConnell challenger faces tougher path after rocky launch Funding a strong defense of our nation's democratic process can't wait The Hill's Morning Report: Trump walks back from 'send her back' chants MORE (R-Ky.) will bring the measure to the floor — nor is it clear it would win 60 votes on procedural motions, the threshold for breaking a filibuster.
 
 
The deal would restore $106 million in ObamaCare outreach funding that was cut by President Trump, according to a Democratic aide.
 
In a concession to Republicans, the deal would also amend a "guardrail" in ObamaCare to give states more flexibility to change rules through a waiver. States would be allowed to make changes as long as they allowed "comparable" affordability to consumers, according to Alexander.
 
He said minimum standards for what insurance must cover have not been changed, which represents a priority for Democrats negotiating the compromise.
 
The deal would also allow people to buy lower cost, less generous "copper" plans, a Republican request.