After the Senate GOP’s health plan was defeated in a stunning turn of events last week, some top Republicans have signaled they will start to work with Democrats to shore up parts of the Affordable Care Act.
Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander said Tuesday that the Senate Health Education Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee will hold a series of hearings when the Senate returns in September.
Then, working together with Democrats, the plan is to craft a short-term bill that could stabilize the individual healthcare markets, one of the most volatile aspects of the Affordable Care Act.
That includes making sure the government pays out key payments that help offset insurers’ costs of covering certain Americans. President Donald Trump has threatened to end these payments, but Alexander asked that the president continue the payments through the end of September.
“There are a number of issues with the American health care system, but if your house is on fire, you want to put out the fire, and the fire in this case is the individual health insurance market. Both Republicans and Democrats agree on this,” Alexander said in a statement Tuesday. Alexander said he plans to work with Democratic Sen. Patty Murray of Washington to make the hearings bipartisan.
If the Trump administration does decide to end the payments, known as cost-sharing reduction subsidies, it could lead to higher premiums and fewer plan choices in the exchanges. CSRs are paid to insurance companies to help offset the cost of discount health plans they provide to Americans making up to 200% of the federal poverty limit.
Here are the states that rely the most on the payments.
Insurance companies have until late September to raise rates and finalize their coverage areas for 2018. Alexander said he hopes to get a short-term bill together before that deadline that would extend CSR payments for a year.
“In my opinion, any solution that Congress passes for a 2018 stabilization package would need to be small, bipartisan, and balanced,” Alexander said. “It should include funding for the cost-sharing reductions, but it also should also include greater flexibility for states in approving health insurance policies.”
Alexander will still need to get both Republicans and Democrats on board with that vision, which likely won’t be an easy feat given the sharply partisan healthcare process over the past six months.