Healthcare CEOs, governors, state regulators set to testify during Senate's ACA stabilization hearings

Now that lawmakers have returned from recess, one of the most urgent tasks they face is crafting a measure to stabilize the Affordable Care Act exchanges.

For insurers, the stakes are high. They have until Sept. 27 to finalize their plans for participation in the exchanges, and some could be forced to pull out if they don’t see key signs of market stability by then.

That’s where the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions committee will come in. Committee Chairman Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., and ranking member Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., have planned four bipartisan hearings to address “the actions Congress should take to stabilize and strengthen the individual health insurance market.”

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The witnesses set to testify range from health plan executives to state regulators to governors. Here’s a detailed rundown of what to expect:

Wednesday, Sept. 6 at 10 a.m. 

  • Where: 216 Hart Senate Office Building, or live-streamed here
  • Witnesses: John Doak, Oklahoma Department of Insurance commissioner; Mike Kreidler, Washington state insurance commissioner; Julie Mix McPeak, Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance commissioner; Teresa Miller, Pennsylvania insurance commissioner; and Lori K. Wing-Heier, Alaska Division of Insurance director

Thursday, Sept. 7 at 9 a.m.

  • Where: 216 Hart Senate Office Building, or live-streamed here
  • Witnesses: Republicans: Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker, Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam and Utah Gov. Gary Herbert; Democrats: Montana Gov. Steve Bullock and Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper

Tuesday, Sept. 12 

  • When: 10 a.m.
  • Where: 430 Dirksen Senate Office Building, or live-streamed here
  • Witnesses: Michael O. Leavitt, former Utah governor and former Health and Human Services secretary; Allison Leigh O’Toole, CEO of MNsure; Tarren Bragdon, CEO of the Foundation for Government Accountability; Bernard J. Tyson, president and CEO of Kaiser Permanente; and Tammy Tomczyk, a senior principal and consulting actuary at Oliver Wyman.

Thursday, Sept. 14

  • When: 10 a.m.
  • Where: 430 Dirksen Senate Office Building, or live-streamed here
  • Witnesses: Manny Sethi, M.D., president of Healthy Tennessee and orthopedic trauma surgeon; Susan L. Turney, M.D., CEO of Marshfield Clinic Health System; Robert Ruiz-Moss, vice president of Anthem’s individual market segment; Christina Postolowski, Rocky Mountain regional director of Young Invincibles; and Raymond G. Farmer, director of the South Carolina Department of Insurance and secretary-treasurer for the National Association of Insurance Commissioners

The mere existence of the hearings—and their intended outcome, a narrow bill to patch up the ACA exchanges—is a sharp about-face from the way Republicans have approached healthcare policy since President Donald Trump took power. But the party’s multiple failures to repeal the ACA via partisan, budget-reconciliation bills have increased the appetite among some lawmakers for a bipartisan effort to address the law’s shortcomings. 

It’s not yet certain what a final ACA stabilization measure will include, but chief among the priorities on both sides of the aisle will likely be appropriating funds for the cost-sharing reduction program. Republicans, meanwhile, are expected to push for giving states more flexibility to use section 1332 waivers to retool their individual marketplaces. 

Whatever the committee crafts, however, will still face an uphill battle. Some GOP senators may decide to instead throw their support behind an long-shot ACA repeal effort that Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-La., and Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., are working on. And even if Congress is able to pass a bipartisan ACA stabilization bill, Trump—who has urged lawmakers to continue their repeal push—could veto it.