Lacking clear Trump support, Alexander-Murray bill loses steam

Donald Trump speaks at healthcare lunch
President Donald Trump spent very little time discussing healthcare at the GOP's weekly policy lunch on Tuesday. (C-SPAN)

President Donald Trump’s unclear signals on whether he will support a bipartisan Affordable Care Act stabilization bill has put the measure on the back burner as the GOP focuses on other issues.

During Republicans’ weekly policy lunch on Tuesday, Trump thanked Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., for his effort to craft a healthcare bill alongside Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash.—but he stopped short of endorsing it, The Hill reported.

Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, felt that Trump’s comment was a form of encouragement for the bill, according to Politico, while other GOP senators said the president didn’t offer enough detail to suggest a position, according to Politico.

The rest of the meeting centered on tax reform, not healthcare, suggesting that the effort to appropriate funding for cost-sharing reduction payments will likely get pushed to the end of the year, the article added.

Not only has Trump’s lack of endorsement of the Alexander-Murray bill robbed it of momentum, but a pair of Republican lawmakers also just introduced a competing proposal. Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch and Texas Rep. Kevin Brady’s plan would fund CSR payments but also temporarily repeal the ACA’s individual and employer mandates.

In other ACA-related news:

Democrats introduce Medicaid buy-in bill

Sen. Brian Schatz of Hawaii and Rep. Ben Ray Luján of New Mexico have introduced legislation that would create a Medicaid-based public insurance option on the ACA marketplaces.

The bill, called the State Public Option Act, would allow states to create a Medicaid buy-in program that would be accessible to residents of all incomes.

RELATED: Democratic senator wants Medicaid buy-in option on Affordable Care Act exchanges

"Our bill builds on a system that already works—a system that is already in place in every county in every state in the country; and a system that has built-in efficiencies," Luján said.

Even so, the measure is unlikely to pass in a Republican-controlled Congress.

CMS denies Massachusetts waiver request

The Trump administration has notified Massachusetts that it cannot accept its application for a Section 1332 waiver, which aimed to set up a reinsurance program.

In a letter (PDF) sent this week to Massachusetts Health Connector Executive Director Louis Gutierrez, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services said the commonwealth submitted its application too close to the start of open enrollment, leaving insufficient time to implement it.

Massachusetts is not alone in having to scrap its waiver plans. This week, Iowa withdrew its application to implement a “stopgap measure” aimed at stabilizing its individual insurance market, blaming the ACA’s inflexible regulations for its failure to get approval. And earlier this month, Oklahoma withdrew its request to implement a reinsurance program, saying CMS did not approve the proposal quickly enough based on an agreed-upon timeline.