Trump backs bipartisan fixes to ObamaCare markets

Trump backs bipartisan fixes to ObamaCare markets
© Greg Nash

President Trump at a closed-door meeting with GOP senators on Tuesday said he would support two proposals meant to stabilize ObamaCare’s insurance markets in exchange for a repeal of the law's individual mandate, several Republicans in attendance said.

The two bills would fund key ObamaCare insurer payments, and provide billions to help states create reinsurance programs for high-cost patients.

Passage of the measures could prove crucial to winning support for the Senate tax bill, which includes repeal of ObamaCare’s mandate, from Sen. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsMcConnell proposes compressed schedule for impeachment trial GOP can beat Democrats after impeachment — but it needs to do this one thing Juan Williams: Counting the votes to remove Trump MORE (R-Maine).

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Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamWhite House appoints GOP House members to advise Trump's impeachment team Hypocrisy is the currency of the realm for GOP in the age of Trump Lawmakers push back at Pentagon's possible Africa drawdown MORE (R-S.C) told reporters after the lunch that Trump said he’d back the two bills.

“He said that today: If the tax bill passes with an individual mandate repeal he would” support the bills, Graham said.

Collins met privately with Trump, Graham and Senate Health Chairman Lamar AlexanderAndrew (Lamar) Lamar AlexanderMcConnell proposes compressed schedule for impeachment trial Juan Williams: Counting the votes to remove Trump Conservative groups aim to sink bipartisan fix to 'surprise' medical bills MORE (R-Tenn.) before the larger meeting. She urged Trump to support the two bills, arguing it would mitigate the effects of repealing the individual mandate. She also met with the president before Thanksgiving.

Collins left the meeting feeling she’d been reassured by Trump that he’d support both bills.

“[Trump] said that he understood the need to have something to offset the premium increases and appeared very open” to signing the two bills into law, she said.

The Maine senator said she, GOP leadership and members of the Finance Committee also met Tuesday to talk about passing the two proposals.

“I think they’re eager to help me get to yes,” she told reporters after lunch, smiling.

The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimated that repealing the mandate would increase premiums by 10 percent and result in 13 million fewer people with insurance.

Collins has been a swing vote on tax reform and has pushed to have the repeal of the mandate removed from the tax bill, arguing that it would destabilize the markets. Trump had pushed for leadership to include a repeal in the bill after Republicans failed to fully repeal the health care law over the summer.

Asked if she were feeling more optimistic about the tax-reform bill, she said: “That is a fair assessment because I believe a lot of my concerns, it appears are going to be addressed.”

One of the bipartisan bills, authored by Alexander and Sen. Patty MurrayPatricia (Patty) Lynn MurrayConservative groups aim to sink bipartisan fix to 'surprise' medical bills Democrats request briefing on intel behind Trump's embassy threat claim Democrats ask if US citizens were detained at border checkpoints due to Iranian national origin MORE (D-Wash.), would fund ObamaCare insurer payments for two years and give states more flexibility to define their insurance plans.

Trump canceled the payments, called cost-sharing reductions, in October. He has since waffled on whether he would support the bill, and Republican leaders have said they wouldn’t put the bill on the floor without expressed approval from the president.

The other, authored by Collins and Sen. Bill NelsonClarence (Bill) William NelsonThe most expensive congressional races of the last decade Lobbying world Bottom Line MORE (R-Fla.), would provide billions in federal funding for state-run reinsurance programs that help insurers cover high-cost enrollees.

It’s unclear what vehicle the bills would be in, though several senators said it could be included in a year-end spending deal to prevent a government shutdown. Government funding is currently set to run out next month.

Democrats so far appear unwilling to support Alexander-Murray if Republicans repeal the mandate through tax reform, arguing it would hurt the healthcare law, known as the Affordable Care Act.

“You can't sabotage the entire system and then say you're going to do a small little fix on top of that sabotage,” Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) told reporters.

“Murray-Alexander was never designed to be in a situation where there was a direct bomb thrown into the ACA. Murray Alexander is great but first our Republican colleagues should abandon the idea of sabotaging the ACA.”

This story was updated at 4:46 p.m.