Bipartisan senators discuss path forward on ObamaCare fix

Bipartisan senators discuss path forward on ObamaCare fix
© Greg Nash

Sens. Lamar AlexanderAndrew (Lamar) Lamar AlexanderSticking points force stimulus package talks to spill into Sunday GOP drafting stimulus package without deal with Democrats Senate coronavirus stimulus talks spill into Saturday MORE (R-Tenn.) and Patty MurrayPatricia (Patty) Lynn MurrayTrump administration issues guidance scaling back paid leave requirement for small business employees Senate coronavirus stimulus talks spill into Saturday Senate Democrats propose canceling student loan payments during coronavirus MORE (D-Wash.) met Wednesday to discuss the path forward for their bipartisan legislation aimed at stabilizing ObamaCare, aides in both parties said.

The legislation’s future has been thrown into question after it was punted at the end of last month. Alexander is now pushing for the legislation to be included in a government funding package when a long-term deal on that measure is reached.

ADVERTISEMENT

Murray and other Democrats, though, want significant changes to the bill, saying that it needs to be redone now that Republicans have destabilized health insurance markets by repealing ObamaCare’s individual mandate in the tax-reform bill last month.

Democrats have not yet said what changes they are looking for.

But Alexander told reporters on Wednesday that the bill will remain “fundamentally what was agreed to.”

“It's fundamentally what was agreed to,” he said. “It's what we recommended, plus the Collins-Nelson risk pool."

Alexander was referring to a companion bill from Sens. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsGOP presses for swift Ratcliffe confirmation to intel post Campaigns pivot toward health awareness as races sidelined by coronavirus Senate eyes quick exit after vote on coronavirus stimulus package MORE (R-Maine) and Bill NelsonClarence (Bill) William NelsonLobbying world The most expensive congressional races of the last decade Lobbying world MORE (D-Fla.) that provides funding known as reinsurance aimed at bringing down premiums.

Collins is a key player on the issue, since Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellDemocrats press Trump, GOP for funding for mail-in ballots Top GOP lawmakers push back on need for special oversight committee for coronavirus aid Stocks move little after record-breaking unemployment claims MORE (R-Ky.) gave her a commitment to support passage of the two ObamaCare fixes in exchange for her vote for tax reform. Consideration of the two bills was originally supposed to occur before the end of 2017, but has now been put off.

The Alexander-Murray bill funds key payments to insurers known as cost-sharing reductions that President TrumpDonald John TrumpMilitary personnel to handle coronavirus patients at facilities in NYC, New Orleans and Dallas Navy hospital ship USNS Comfort has total of 20 patients: report Fauci says that all states should have stay-at-home orders MORE cancelled last year. But Democrats say that measure needs to be rethought now that many experts say cancelling the payments has actually helped the law through a quirk that led to increased subsidies that help people afford coverage.