GOP chairman in talks with Trump officials on more ObamaCare actions

GOP chairman in talks with Trump officials on more ObamaCare actions
© Greg Nash

Sen. Lamar AlexanderLamar AlexanderMcConnell gets GOP wake-up call The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Alibaba - Democrats return to disappointment on immigration Authorities link ex-Tennessee governor to killing of Jimmy Hoffa associate MORE (R-Tenn.) wrote in a recent letter that bipartisan efforts to fix ObamaCare have failed and he is now turning to focus on additional actions the Trump administration can take on its own regarding the health-care law.

Alexander worked for months with Sen. Patty MurrayPatricia (Patty) Lynn MurrayDemocrats try to back Manchin off killing paid family leave proposal Democrats cutting paid leave from spending deal amid Manchin opposition Under pressure, Democrats cut back spending MORE (D-Wash.) on a bipartisan effort to provide funding to bring down ObamaCare premiums, but the effort fell apart in March. Alexander, in a letter to supporters sent Monday and obtained by The Hill, said he does not see any path forward for bipartisanship on the issue.

“Given Democrats' attitude, I know of nothing that Republicans and Democrats can agree on to stabilize the individual health insurance market,” Alexander wrote.

“So now efforts to help Americans paying skyrocketing premiums will turn to the Trump Administration and the states,” he added.

He said he is talking to Trump administration officials about “other administrative actions they can take to give states more flexibility to help lower health insurance premiums, especially for the 9 million working Americans in the individual market who do not receive a federal subsidy.”

The letter comes as Democrats are ramping up their attacks on Republicans for upcoming ObamaCare premium increases, pointing to actions like the GOP-led repeal of the mandate to have health insurance last December.

But Democrats say they still want to work with Republicans, even if Republicans don’t see a path forward.

“I would hope that especially now, after giving insurers a huge tax cut and as families are starting to see headlines about higher premiums next year due to Republican sabotage, my colleagues on the other side of the aisle would want to work with Democrats to fix these problems,” Murray said in a statement.

“It’s disappointing that instead, they are digging in their heels, doubling down on partisanship, and forcing families to pay the price by allowing insurers to skirt patient protections—but as I’ve said before, Democrats are not walking away from the table even if Republicans are,” she added.

Among other issues, the key dispute in March that broke down bipartisan talks was a dispute over abortion restrictions. Republicans said a deal must include restrictions known as the Hyde Amendment, preventing federal funding from going to abortions, but Democrats rejected the language, saying the restrictions would effectively prevent insurers from offering abortion coverage at all.

There was never a way found around that impasse.  

"Chairman Alexander blew up bipartisan talks to alleviate the damaging rate hikes that Trump-era Republican policies are forcing on millions of Americans, and his ‘dog ate my homework’ finger-pointing is too little, too late," said Brad Woodhouse, campaign director of the pro-ObamaCare group Protect Our Care.