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Senate Republicans nod at bipartisan push for insurer payments

  • Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., flanked by Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., the Republican Conference chairman, left, and Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., laughs as he holds his first news conference since the Republican health care bill collapsed last week due to opposition within the GOP ranks, on Capitol Hill Washington, Tuesday, Aug. 1, 2017. Sen. McConnell delayed the start of the traditional summer recess until the third week of August to catch up on uncompleted work. AP file

  • In this Jan. 12, 2016 file photo, Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee Chairman Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn. speaks on Capitol Hill in Washington. A bipartisan Senate effort to continue federal payments to insurers and avert a costly rattling of insurance markets faces a dicey future, underscoring that last week’s wreck of the Republican drive to repeal the Obama health care law hasn’t eased the issue’s fraught politics. AP file



Bloomberg
Sunday, August 06, 2017

Senate Republicans are expressing a willingness to consider a bipartisan approach to strengthening the individual insurance market under Obamacare, even as President Donald Trump is deciding whether to end payments for it.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Saturday he’d be open to the attempt, which follows the collapse of Republican efforts to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, according to the Associated Press. Republican Sen. Thom Tillis said he’d be obligated to consider it.

“We have got a destabilized market where insurance rates are going to go up 20, 30, 40 percent next year,” Tillis of North Carolina said on ABC’s This Week on Sunday. “Anything that we can do to prevent that and the damage that that will have on people who need health care I think is something I have to look at.”

The Senate health committee will begin bipartisan hearings in early September on stabilizing and strengthening the Affordable Care Act’s individual insurance market, Republican Chairman Lamar Alexander of Tennessee and top Democrat Patty Murray of Washington said in a joint statement Aug. 1.

While saying he was open to a bipartisan plan for subsidies, McConnell also said Saturday there was “still a chance” to address a repeal and replacement of Obamacare – but that it was quickly becoming unlikely, according to the AP.

Trump has also tweeted to his 35.2 million followers that senators, who are away from Washington for their summer recess, shouldn’t vote on anything else until they’ve completed the effort to revamp President Barack Obama’s signature health law.

Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price said July 30 that “no decision’s been made” on whether to continue key subsidies under the law to health insurance companies, but that the administration’s job is “to follow the law of the land.”

The payments, called cost-sharing reductions, help insurers offset health care costs for low-income Americans. Trump has repeatedly suggested ending the payments as a bargaining tactic to bring Democrats to the negotiating table.

The next payment is due Aug. 21.

“The cost-sharing reductions over time need to be eliminated,” Tillis said. “But we can’t just all of the sudden pull the rug out from underneath an industry that has had this in place for about seven years.”

Appearing together on CBS’s Face the Nation on Sunday, Republican Gov. John Kasich of Ohio and Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper of Colorado said both parties should work to find a solution.

“Republicans are going to have to admit that there is a group of people out there who will need help,” Kasich said.

“I think we’ll be surprised at the number of senators that are willing to kind of step back and say, ‘All right. Let’s roll up our sleeves, and work on a bipartisan basis, and see how far we can go,’ ” Hickenlooper said.

Republican Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin said “we do need to stabilize those markets” but urged his colleagues to move on to other priorities.

“I really do think we probably ought to turn our attention to debt ceiling and funding the government and tax cuts until we can really get all the parties together,” Johnson said on CNN’s State of the Union on Sunday.