Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., one of the architects of a stalled Affordable Care Act stabilization bill, is hopeful that the measure might make a comeback.
“I think if the president supports it, it'll be a part of the end-of-the-year [funding] package,” Alexander said in an interview with CNBC. “We see premiums going through the roof. So, for the next 2 years, we ought to be able to agree that we're going to stabilize that.”
Alexander’s bill—which he drafted alongside Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., after a series of hearings featuring insurance commissioners, governors and insurance executives—expands flexibility for states and includes 2 years of funding for cost-sharing reduction (CSR) payments.
President Donald Trump decided in October that the government would stop reimbursing insurers for those subsidies, which help consumers pay for out-of-pocket healthcare expenses.
Uncertainty over continued funding of CSR payments has contributed to instability in the individual marketplaces, leading many insurers to raise their individual market premiums in 2018, or in some cases, exit certain regions. For his part, Trump has decried the subsidies as “bailouts” to insurers despite also making statements in support of Alexander’s bipartisan deal. His lack of clear support for the measure led it to lose steam as Congress pursued other legislative priorities.
But Alexander isn’t the only GOP lawmaker to bring up the possibility of his bill finally passing. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, the ranking Senate Republican, said recently that the Alexander-Murray bill is likely to make it into the year-end funding bill.
And Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, said on CNN’s “State of the Union” that if the Senate doesn’t strike a repeal of the ACA’s individual mandate from its tax bill, it should at least pass the Alexander-Murray bill—plus a bill that she and Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson introduced, which would create high-risk pools to protect people with pre-existing conditions.
The inclusion of the individual mandate repeal in the Senate tax bill is also an issue for Democrats.
“Republicans cannot expect to pass their own, separate, ideological healthcare provision and then turn around and ask for Democratic votes to pass Alexander-Murray,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said last week.
Schumer could very well get his way. White House Budget Director Mick Mulvaney said on “State of the Union” this weekend that the Trump administration would be open to striking the individual mandate repeal from the tax bill if it has to.
“If it becomes an impediment to getting the best tax bill we can we're okay with taking it out,” he said.