Senators Reach Bipartisan Deal to Save Key Obamacare Subsidies

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There is not yet a guarantee from leadership that the bill will come to the floor for a vote.

Sens. Patty Murray and Lamar Alexander

Sens. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Patty Murray (D-WA) have reached a deal on “a short-term limited plan to stabilize health care markets,” Alexander announced Tuesday afternoon.

Alexander, the chair of the Senate Health Committee, said there was no guarantee from Senate Leadership that the bill would go to the floor for a vote, but that Alexander and Murray, the ranking member on the Senate Health Committee, were going to round up co-sponsors and then present the bill to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Minority Leader Chuck Schumer.

Schumer did tell CNN that he thought the deal was a “good solution” and that it got “broad support” from the Democratic caucus at their lunch Tuesday. Although details are still forthcoming, Schumer said the deal includes “anti-sabotage” provisions.

“A very good step forward,” Schumer said.

The deal reportedly includes funding for cost-sharing reduction payments, vital Obamacare subsidies that the White House announced it was going to stop funding last week, as well as “meaningful flexibility.”

The CSRs were the subject of a lawsuit filed by House Republicans during the Obama administration, which House Republicans won. The Obama administration appealed and continued making the payments, worth an estimated $7 billion per year.

The White House announced late Thursday that they would stop making the payments, but the Alexander-Murray bill could officially appropriate the payments, which help insurers cover lower-income people.

Senate aide says Alexander-Murray deal funds CSR payments Trump calls “payoff” for 2 yrs, restores $106-M for ACA outreach/enrollment

The deal also restores $106 million for ACA outreach and enrollment, according to CNBC. CNBC also reports that, in exchange for CSR payments, Democrats have accepted more “catastrophic” plans and streamlining the waiver review process that allows states to waive certain parts of Obamacare.

In August, the Trump administration slashed funding for enrollment advertising by 90 percent, from $100 million to $10 million, and cut nearly $30 million in funding from nonprofit groups that help people enroll in Obamacare.

Alexander was cautious about celebrating too soon Tuesday, saying, “This is a small step. I’d like to undersell it, not oversell it.”

The deal comes after the Senate tried and failed to repeal Obamacare a number of times, most recently falling short of the necessary votes to pass the Graham-Cassidy repeal bill in late September.

Trump also signed an executive order last week that allows insurers to offer plans that don’t cover everything required under the Affordable Care Act, allowing individuals who feel they don’t need robust coverage to purchase cheaper plans that offer fewer benefits.

 

Reprinted with permission from Think Progress