Healthcare

House leaves out ObamaCare fix from must-pass funding bill

ObamaCare payments aimed at lowering premiums will not be included in the House's government funding bill, in a significant defeat for backers of the effort.

Multiple GOP lawmakers leaving a conference meeting held Monday evening to discuss the ominibus funding bill said the payments are not being included, in large part because of a dispute with Democrats over abortion restrictions known as the Hyde Amendment.

Republicans need Democratic votes to pass the funding bill, so with firm Democratic opposition to the abortion restriction on the ObamaCare funds, the provisions were dropped.

The Senate is considering a move to hold a vote to add the ObamaCare funding back in to the funding bill, but overall the chances are not looking good for the effort.

The absence of the payments is a blow to Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), in particular, given that she secured support for the provisions from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) in exchange for her vote for the tax-reform bill in December.

She, along with Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), pushed hard for the payments to be included, but the abortion issue proved to be a high obstacle.

Republicans say they just want to include standard Hyde language that Congress has approved for decades. But Democrats say applying those restrictions to the ObamaCare funds would be an expansion of the Hyde Amendment that would prevent federal funds from going to any insurer that offered abortion coverage at all.

Some Republicans erupted into cheers and applause when GOP leaders announced they would hold the line when it comes to insisting Hyde language be attached to any new ObamaCare payments, according to a person in the room.

The two kinds of payments are cost-sharing reductions, which reimburse insurers for discounts to low-income enrollees, and reinsurance, which covers the costs of some especially sick enrollees. Both payments are aimed at lowering premiums.

"They're not in there at this point and that's unfortunate," said House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Greg Walden (R-Ore.), who had pushed in favor of the payments. "We're going to see what we can do moving forward, perhaps in the Senate."

Significant premium hikes are expected to be announced in October. Without the stability funds aimed at mitigating that, a blame game between the parties could ramp up just ahead of the November elections, with Democrats hoping to pin the blame on actions by President Trump that they say have destabilized markets and caused the premium increases.

-Melanie Zanona contributed.

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