Bipartisan senators discuss path forward on ObamaCare fix
Sens. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and Patty Murray (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.
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 Collins (R-Maine) and Bill Nelson (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 McConnell (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 Trump 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.