House conservatives won’t back spending bill with ObamaCare payments

Greg Nash

House conservatives said they won’t support a short-term spending bill to fund the government if it contains provisions to “bail out” insurance companies. 

A deal between moderate GOP Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), President Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) would likely attach two bipartisan measures to stabilize ObamaCare’s insurance markets to the spending bill in exchange for her vote on tax reform. 

But conservatives say that wouldn’t pass the House. 

{mosads}”We haven’t repealed ObamaCare, we haven’t cut taxes yet, and we haven’t started construction on the border security wall like we told the voters. But before we get any of that stuff done we’re going to bail out insurance companies in the spending bill?” said Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), the former chairman of the conservative House Freedom Caucus. 

“For me, I think probably largely for many of our members, that doesn’t make sense. I wouldn’t be supportive of that.” 

One of the measures, sponsored by Sens. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and Patty Murray (D-Wash.), would fund key ObamaCare insurer payments, called cost sharing reductions (CSR), for two years.

These payments reimburse insurers for giving discounted deductibles and copays to low-income patients but have been criticized by conservatives as a bailout of insurance companies. 

The other bill, sponsored by Collins and Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), would fund “reinsurance,” government funding to help pay for the costs of sick enrollees and bring down premium prices. 

Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) said he likely would not support a spending bill that contains the Alexander-Murray language unless it also includes more concessions from Democrats. And he definitely wouldn’t support a spending bill that appropriates money for the reinsurance. 

“I don’t see supporting a CR with Alexander-Murray attached to it,” Meadows said. 

“I’ve been one willing to look at CSR payments as part of a transition but not with what Sen. Collins, who I respect — she’s talking about reinsurance. That’s actually adding more money to a failing system. It just doesn’t work, and I think it would have a very high hurdle here in the House to pass.” 

Collins, a key Senate vote on the tax bill, believes that the repeal of ObamaCare’s individual mandate, included in the Senate tax bill, would raise premiums.

On Thursday, she said she had worked out a deal with Trump and McConnell to pass the two bipartisan bills in an effort to mitigate the effects of repealing the mandate, saying it would likely be added to the short-term spending bill. 

FreedomWorks, an influential conservative advocacy group, said it’s “bad process” to attach Alexander-Murray to any spending bill. 

“We oppose Alexander-Murray and will urge members of the Senate and House to vote against it should it reach the floor,” said Jason Pye, vice president of legislative affairs for the group. 

“This is a bailout for health insurance companies that participate on the ObamaCare exchanges.”

A spokesperson for the conservative Republican Study Committee said it would have to see concrete details before making a decision. 

The chairman has been on the record before that part of any deal on ObamaCare must include a permanent repeal of some sort,” said Alexei Woltornist. 

“Conservatives are keeping in mind that the American people elected Republicans to repeal Obamacare, not bail it out.”

Tags Bill Nelson conservatives GOP tax plan government funding House Freedom Caucus Jim Jordan Lamar Alexander Mark Meadows Mitch McConnell ObamaCare Patty Murray Susan Collins Susan Collins

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