A last-ditch effort in Congress to try to stabilize Obamacare is falling apart

  • Republican Sens. Susan Collins and Lamar Alexander are pushing to include extra Obamacare funding in this week’s must-pass spending bill.
  • But, lawmakers from both parties have issues with the plan and it may be dead on arrival.

Two Republicans’ last-ditch effort trying to shore up the Affordable Care Act looks like it’s falling apart.

The measure, from by Republican Sens. Susan Collins and Lamar Alexander, would increase funding for key programs to attempt to reduce premiums in Obamacare’s individual insurance markets while also deregulating some of the insurance plans in the same markets.

The authors and other lawmakers claim the move would bring down premiums for people obtaining coverage through the exchanges.

“It is the right thing to do,” Collins said Monday. “It would result in rate decreases that would provide substantial relief.”

But an attempt to include the provisions in this week’s spending bill appear to have hit a wall.

The measure received pushback over the past few days from members of both parties. Republicans felt that allocating more money to the Obamacare marketplaces would be a tacit admission that the law was here to stay, while Democrats were unhappy with some of the technical aspects of the bill.

What’s in the plan

  • It would provide funds for the cost-sharing reduction payments that help offset costs for insurers to cover lower-income patients. These are the payments President Donald Trump ended in October.
  • It would create a reinsurance program that would mitigate losses for insurers that cover an overall sicker pool of people.
  • It would allow people over the age of 30 to buy “copper” plans with limited benefits and loosen regulation around short-term stopgap plans.
  • It would allow governors to obtain waivers to loosen Obamacare regulations in their state without the state legislature’s approval.

The authors believed that by combining the more Democratic-friendly funding options with GOP-friendly easing of regulations, they could strike a compromise. Instead, it’s left lawmakers on both sides of the aisle unhappy.

Everyone has a problem with it

For Republicans, it’s a no-go because it works within the existing frame of Obamacare.

“The idea you’re going to vote for billions of dollars to stabilize a system you never supported in the first place?” GOP Rep. Tom Cole said Tuesday. “Pretty hard to choke down.”

Democrats, meanwhile, pushed back on language that would ban using the new funds at providers that also provide abortion services.

“I am disappointed that Republicans are pushing a partisan bill that includes an unacceptable last-minute attack on women’s health on what should be bipartisan work to lower healthcare costs,” Sen. Patty Murray, an author of the earlier Alexander-Murray stabilization bill, told reporters Monday.

Given the pushback, it is reportedly no longer being included in the massive spending bill set to be released this week.

Attaching the Obamacare provisions to the spending bill, which needs to pass to avoid a government shutdown on Friday, is the last hope for the bill. When asked by reporters of the bill’s chances of coming back without being a part of the shutdown negotiations, Alexander simply said: “Zero.”