24 Senators co-sponsor bill to aid health insurance markets

Alexander-Murray legislation would extend cost-sharing reduction payments for two years.

____simple_html_dom__voku__html_wrapper____>A total of 24 senators—12 Republicans and 12 Democrats— have released short-term bipartisan legislation to stabilize premiums and access to insurance in individual health insurance markets.

The proposed legislation, hammered out by Senate health committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-Wash.)—is aimed reinstating some of the cost-sharing reduction payments rolled back by President Donald Trump last week, as well as addressing other issues intended to help calm health insurance markets, and especially those insurers serving lives covered through programs of the Affordable Care Act.

In a statement, Alexander and Murray said, “We have reached an agreement on bipartisan legislation that will extend cost-sharing reduction payments during 2018 and 2019, protect consumers facing higher premiums this year and give states meaningful flexibility to create greater choices among health insurance policies in the individual health insurance market.

“The goal of this bipartisan legislation is to stabilize and then lower the cost of health insurance premiums and ensure that Americans are able to purchase health insurance in the individual health insurance market.”

Also See: Industry organizations pressure Congress for ACA solutions

The legislation is based on witness testimony from four bipartisan hearings that the Senate health committee conducted last month.

In addition to Alexander and Murray, the bill is cosponsored by Republican senators Mike Rounds (R-SD), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), John McCain (R-Ariz.), Bill Cassidy (R-La.), Susan Collins (R-Maine), Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), Johnny Isakson (R-Georgia), Richard Burr (R-NC) and Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), and Democratic senators Angus King (I-Maine), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND), Al Franken (D-Minn.), Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), Tom Carper (D-Del.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) and Maggie Hassan (D-NH)

Alexander says the bill deals with an issue that Trump has said made him reluctant to support it. The president has said he doesn’t want legislation to end up bailing out insurers.

The bill has “about a page and a half of language in our agreement that tries to make it clear that the benefits of cost-sharing reductions go to consumers and not insurance companies,” Alexander said.

Alexander said Trump called him last night to talk about the legislation, and the lawmaker has said several times that he’s flexible on some of the details. “I said to the president, ‘If you’ve got a way to improve that or make it stronger we welcome it,”’ Alexander said.

On Thursday, Trump said he’s supportive of the work lawmakers are doing to help temporarily stabilize Obamacare’s insurance markets. “I respect very much the two senators .. and love that they’re working on it,” Trump said at the White House when asked about his position on the bill.

The American Medical Association already has come out in favor of the proposed legislation. In a statement issued Thursday afternoon, the AMA urged support for the Alexander-Murray plan.

“Multiyear action is needed to maintain the availability and affordability of individual health insurance plans that millions of Americans count on for access to the medical care they need,” said the statement, attributed to David Barbe, MD, the AMA’s president. “We are pleased the proposal includes additional health plan options and provides needed funding for outreach, education and enrollment assistance, while maintaining key guardrails to protect patients as part of the state waiver process. We urge all members of Congress to support the Alexander-Murray proposal.”

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