CBO: Bill to shore up ObamaCare would reduce premiums by 10 percent
An updated bill to shore up ObamaCare’s markets could reduce premiums by 10 percent next year and by 20 percent in 2020 and 2021 for states that get extra funding from the administration, according to preliminary estimates from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO).
The bill, originally introduced last year by Sens. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and Patty Murray (D-Wash.), could be added to a long-term spending package Congress hopes to pass next week.
Alexander and Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) made several changes to the bill since it was introduced in October to gain support from House Republicans, including an added requirement that funds not be used for plans that cover abortions.
A Murray aide said she is continuing to negotiate with Alexander. Murray has previously called the abortion restrictions a “no go.”
“Sen. Murray is continuing to negotiate with Chairman Alexander and is hopeful Republicans will agree soon to policies that help bring down premiums and undo some of the damage Republican health care sabotage has caused, rather than once again putting partisan ideology and politics ahead of families’ health,” an aide said.
Other changes in the bill include $30 billion for three years of funding for reinsurance and invisible high risk programs — intended to help insurers cover the costs of especially sick and costly patients in an effort to bring down premiums for everyone else — and three years of key ObamaCare payments called cost sharing reduction subsidies (CSRs). Those subsidies reimburse insurers for giving discounted copays and deductibles to low-income patients.
Previous versions of the bill only funded two years of CSRs and did not include funds for reinsurance.
Democrats wanted three years of CSR payments, and Collins pushed for reinsurance funding to mitigate the effects of repealing ObamaCare’s individual mandate. Republicans repealed the mandate in their tax-cut law.
The revised bill would also allow states more flexibility to design their own health plans and would streamline the process for getting approval from the federal government to do so.
It would also allow the sale of catastrophic insurance plans to all Americans regardless of age.
These plans, which tend to have lower premiums than other ObamaCare plans, have higher out-of-pocket costs and are currently only available for those under the age of 30.
Alexander said Tuesday he is “working hard” to get the bill in the omnibus next week.
However, it’s still unclear if the proposal has the support needed to pass.
Democrats oppose the added abortion restrictions, but Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) told members he would not bring the bill up for a vote in the House without them.
Despite the addition of abortion language, some conservatives in the House have been resistant to the idea of stabilizing ObamaCare, calling the plan a “bailout” for insurance companies.