Healthcare

24 senators co-sponsor bipartisan ObamaCare deal

Greg Nash

The bipartisan deal to stabilize ObamaCare’s markets has 24 co-sponsors, Senate Health Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) announced Thursday.

Twelve Republicans and 12 Democrats signed on to the bill, which would continue ObamaCare’s insurer subsidies for two years and give states more flexibility to waive ObamaCare rules. 

“This is a first step. Improve it and pass it sooner rather than later,” Alexander said on the Senate floor.  

{mosads}Trump announced last week he was canceling the payments, arguing the previous administration lacked the authority to make them.

But Democrats, and some Republicans, including Alexander, have pushed for Congress to temporarily fund the payments as a way to stabilize the ObamaCare markets. 

If they don’t, Alexander said, “there will be chaos in this country and millions of Americans will be hurt.” 

The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office said canceling the insurer payments could lead to premium increases through 2020. 

Republicans likely wouldn’t put the bill on the floor of the Senate without the expressed approval from President Trump, who has sent mixed messages.

He has repeatedly referred to the insurer payments as a “bailout,” which has been echoed by some conservative Republicans in Congress.  

Responding to that criticism Thursday, Alexander said he was open to adding any language the White House might have to strengthen a provision already in the bill to ensure that insurers can’t keep the payments for themselves, but rather have to pass savings on to consumers in the form of rebates or another mechanism.   

Alexander said he predicts the bill will pass by the end of the year. Some have suggested it could be attached to the end of year spending deal.

But the proposal might face an uphill battle in the House.

It received a cold reception from Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), who said the Senate should instead focus on repealing ObamaCare.  

But Alexander noted that the repeal bill passed by the House earlier in the year funded the insurer payments, known as cost-sharing reductions, for two years.

“Every Republican in the House of Representatives who voted to repeal and replace ObamaCare this year voted for a provision that continued the cost-sharing payments for two years. Our bill does the same thing,” he said. 

In a concession to Republicans, the bill would also grant states more flexibility to waive ObamaCare rules and allow the sale of less comprehensive, cheaper “copper” plans.

But some conservatives have said this isn’t enough. 

For those pushing for more conservative changes, Alexander said, “you can’t get most of those changes without 60 votes in the United States Senate.”

“We are certain that it can be improved, but I do not believe that Congress will want to deal with a problem that will hurt millions of Americans if we allow it to continue.” 

The Republican co-sponsors include Sens. Mike Rounds (R-S.D.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), John McCain (R-Ariz.), Bill Cassidy (R-La.), Susan Collins (R-Maine), Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), Johnny Isakson (R-Georgia), Richard Burr (R-N.C.), and Bob Corker (R-Tenn.). 

The  Democratic co-sponsors include Sens. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.), Al Franken (D-Minn.), Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), Tom Carper (D-Del.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), and Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.). 

Sen. Angus King (I-Maine) is also a co-sponsor.

Updated at 2:15 p.m.
Tags Al Franken Amy Klobuchar Angus King Bill Cassidy Bob Corker Charles Grassley Claire McCaskill Heidi Heitkamp Jeanne Shaheen Joe Donnelly Joe Manchin John McCain Johnny Isakson Joni Ernst Lamar Alexander Lindsey Graham Lisa Murkowski Maggie Hassan Mike Rounds Paul Ryan Richard Burr Susan Collins Tammy Baldwin Tom Carper
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