Alexander supports funding CSRs for 2 years, but fate of stabilization package remains unclear

Lamar Alexander
Several heavy-hitting healthcare industry groups have also urged Congress to fund the CSR payments for two years, arguing that otherwise, “uncertainty will persist and the Congress will need to address these same issues early next year.” (AMSF2011/CC BY 2.0)

Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., said the Affordable Care Act stabilization package he’s working on would include two years of funding for cost-sharing reduction payments—but insurers shouldn’t celebrate just yet.

Alexander, a Republican who chairs the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, said Tuesday that the deal he’s discussing with Ranking Member Patty Murray, D-Wash., includes both CSR funding and giving states “meaningful flexibility in the types of policies they can write,” according to The Hill.

Those two priorities have been at the forefront of ACA stabilization ideas since the HELP Committee held four hearings in early September, during which lawmakers heard from governors, insurance commissioners and healthcare leaders.

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Previously, Alexander supported only one year of funding for CSR payments, while Murray pushed for more. Several heavy-hitting healthcare industry groups have also urged Congress to fund the payments for two years, arguing that otherwise, “uncertainty will persist and the Congress will need to address these same issues early next year.”

Murray and Alexander’s talks then stalled as Republicans turned their attention to a last-ditch effort to repeal and replace the ACA, which ultimately failed.

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Now that talks have started back up again, Alexander briefed his fellow GOP senators on the status of the negotiations during a closed-door luncheon on Tuesday, the Washington Examiner reported. But some lawmakers left the meeting doubtful that a deal could be reached.

South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, who spearheaded the latest ACA repeal attempt, said there “doesn't seem to be much coming of it,” according to the article. Even Alexander admitted that Republicans haven’t reached a consensus on what it means to give “meaningful flexibility to states to approve insurance policies as a way of lowering healthcare costs.”

A prominent senator from the other side of the aisle, however, recently offered a much sunnier take on the negotiations. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said last week that Alexander and Murray have both informed him that they’re “on the verge of an agreement” to stabilize the ACA marketplaces.

Either way, however, insurance companies in many states have already approved steep rate increases for ACA exchange plans next year. That includes a 57.5% average hike in Georgia and a 45% increase in Florida, according to The New York Times. Not all states, however, have made rate increases public yet.

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