Mitch McConnell says he might support bipartisan effort to fund CSRs, but it may come too late

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The Senate's steps toward bipartisan healthcare reform may come too late to rescue the ACA marketplaces next year.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said he "would be willing to take a look at" a bipartisan bill that would fund cost-sharing reduction payments through 2018—but such a measure may be too little, too late.

McConnell said this weekend that there is “still a chance” that the Senate could revive its failed effort to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, but he admitted that's not highly likely, the Associated Press reported.

The Senate’s Health, Education, Labor and Pensions committee will hold bipartisan hearings on healthcare beginning next month, and McConnell said he could get on board with a bipartisan measure to repair the individual marketplaces if Democrats were willing meet in the middle.

“If the Democrats are willing to support some real reforms rather than just an insurance company bailout, I would be willing to take a look at it,” McConnell said.

RELATED: 'Problem Solvers Caucus' outlines bipartisan healthcare policy fixes in lieu of ACA repeal

Industry groups and leaders have called for a bipartisan solution in the wake of the Senate’s failed ACA repeal effort; its approaches, including the so-called “skinny repeal” and the Better Care Reconciliation Act, were widely panned by providers.

But even as Congress inches toward a bipartisan solution, payers warn that the effort may come too late. Some of the country’s biggest insurers have already pulled out of the ACA exchanges in certain states next year, citing uncertainty over the future of CSR payments as a major factor.

In fact, some states are asking insurers to refile 2018 ACA exchange rates in case CSR payments don’t come through. But insurance commissioners say Congress doesn’t have long to come up with a stabilization plan to reassure wary insurers.

"Probably the month of September’s all we have, and that’s a big task for Congress to think about passing even a small stabilization piece of legislation that quickly," Tennessee Insurance Commissioner Julie McPeak, who is also president-elect of the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, told Politico.

If CSR payments do continue, the exchanges will likely survive 2018 intact, experts told the publication. But if they don’t—as the Trump administration has threatened—major premium hikes are likely, as are further exchange exits.