ACA stabilization bills: Authors optimistic despite the odds

While some Republican senators are freshly optimistic about the prospects of two bipartisan Affordable Care Act stabilization bills, the measures continue to face steep hurdles.

Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, told reporters Monday that negotiations with House Republicans “are going very, very well,” according to The Hill. She also noted that she’s spoken twice to House Speaker Paul Ryan about the bills.

Collins previously agreed to vote for the GOP tax bill in exchange for a promise from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell that he’d pass the ACA stabilization measures by the end of the year. But a year-end spending bill—and more recently, another stopgap spending measure—passed without including them.

One of the bills, authored by Collins and Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson, would allocate funding for state-based reinsurance programs. The other, proffered by Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander and Democratic Sen. Patty Murray, would fund cost-sharing reduction payments for two years.

Last week, Alexander said he believes there’s an opportunity to include the two measures in a longer-term omnibus spending bill—a sentiment Collins echoed Monday. But they’re facing opposition from both sides of the aisle.

For one, some House Republicans said they still aren’t likely to support the ACA fixes without some changes to the bills, according to the Washington Examiner.

House Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows said he doesn’t see much support for the measures among his conservative colleagues, and Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla., wants to see ACA reforms beyond just more flexibility for states. For his part, Republican Study Committee Chairman Mark Walker said a sticking point is the inclusion of funding for CSR payments—which some in the GOP see as bailouts for insurers.

Meanwhile, Democrats—including Murray—want to see changes to the Alexander-Murray measure to account for destabilizing effects of repealing the individual mandate, The Hill article said. Yet they haven’t yet proposed anything specific to Republicans.

Governor takes matters into his own hands

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker isn’t counting on Congress to shore up the individual insurance markets.

Though he’s long been an ACA critic, Walker said this week that he wants to seek a federal waiver to set up a reinsurance program aimed at lowering premiums, the Wisconsin State Journal reported. He also wants the state Senate to pass a bill crafted by Democrats that would guarantee consumer protections for people with pre-existing conditions.

Democrats, though, aren’t entirely impressed, with one state lawmaker calling Walker’s statements “a total flip-flop.”