Senate Republicans eye bipartisan push for insurer payments

McConnell and others in GOP see need to stabilize the individual insurance market.

(Bloomberg)--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 on 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 Senator 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 healthcare, 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 on August 1.

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

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 healthcare 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 on August 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 Governor John Kasich of Ohio and Democratic Governor 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 Senator Ron Johnson of Wisconsin said “we do need to stabilize those markets,” but he 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.

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