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Top Republican negotiators on a bill to stabilize ObamaCare markets met on Thursday to discuss a way to bridge the gap between House and Senate measures.

GOP Sens. Lamar Alexander (Tenn.) and Susan Collins (Maine) met with House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Greg Walden (R-Ore.) to discuss an effort to get ObamaCare stability measures included in a coming long-term government funding bill due in March, known as an omnibus.

“We actually think we’re very close,” Alexander told reporters. “We hope it will be part of the omnibus.”  

“We’re comparing notes on the bills,” he added.

Walden discussed a bill from Rep. Ryan Costello (R-Pa.) which seeks to stabilize markets and bring down premiums by providing funding known as reinsurance.

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That measure is similar to a bill backed by Collins in the Senate, but there are some differences that need to be bridged. For example, the Costello bill provides more funding: $10 billion per year compared to $5 billion per year in Collins’s bill.

Alexander called Costello’s measure a “very promising proposal.”

“We were very impressed with the work that Rep. Costello has done and hope that it could be a part of what the House decides to do,” Alexander said.

House Republicans were a major impediment to passing the stabilization bills in December, when Collins secured a commitment from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) to support them in exchange for her vote for tax reform.

But GOP lawmakers have been warming to the proposal recently, particularly the reinsurance funding.

Some conservatives still oppose that idea as a “bailout” for ObamaCare.

Another obstacle is abortion politics. Republicans are adamant that the Hyde Amendment, which restricts federal funding for abortions, be included in the stabilization measures, but Democrats are against anything they view as an expansion of the restrictions.

“Lowering premiums for hardworking Americans remains one of Chairman Walden’s top priorities and he appreciates Rep. Costello, Senator Alexander, and Senator Collins’ continued work on these issues,” an Energy and Commerce Committee spokesman said.

Tags Greg Walden Lamar Alexander Mitch McConnell ObamaCare ObamaCare markets Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act Ryan Costello Susan Collins

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