Healthcare

GOP senator floats changes to bipartisan ObamaCare deal

Greg Nash

Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) is floating changes to a bipartisan deal to stabilize insurance markets that would pull the measure to the right.

Johnson said he’s discussed the changes with Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) — the Senate Health Committee chairman who brokered the deal with Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) — and Johnson contends they’re crucial to shoring up support for the bill in the House.

Through his spokesman, Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) indicated he opposed the Alexander-Murray proposal on Wednesday.

President Trump did the same, seemingly reversing course on his previous comments that the deal provided “a short-term solution so that we don’t have this very dangerous little period” for insurance companies.

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White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Wednesday that Trump opposes a bipartisan deal to help stabilize ObamaCare in its current form.
 
Johnson said he is seeking to increase the duration of short-term health plans to a 364-day limit; expand health savings accounts; not enforce the employer mandate; and waive the individual insurance mandate penalty for 2017.  

It’s unclear if Alexander would support Johnson’s changes, and Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) said he strongly prefers with sticking to the deal as is.

“They came up with what we think is a balanced and fair plan, and we ought to try to get that done,” Schumer told reporters Wednesday. A Democratic aide wrote in an email that there is strong Democratic support for the agreement. 

Johnson’s changes have the support of at least one high-ranking Republican: Sen. John Barrasso (Wyo.), chairman of the Senate Republican Policy Committee caucus. He said he likes Johnson’s ideas and supports continuing to work on the deal.

But it’s hard to see the provisions garnering Democratic support.

“[Alexander and I] are both interested in getting a result,” Johnson told reporters. “He’s dealing with the hurdle of the Senate, I’m trying to, some extent, deal with the hurdle in the House and maybe both of our efforts can come together and show members of Congress that this is what we’re going to need to do to really alleviate the increasing premiums, which are going to hurt Americans.”

Peter Sullivan contributed to this report.

Tags bipartisan Charles Schumer deal Health care Insurance John Barrasso Lamar Alexander ObamaCare Patty Murray Paul Ryan Ron Johnson Subsidies
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