Hatch, Brady float CSR funding plan with conservative twist

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch says his healthcare proposal includes "meaningful structural reforms" to the ACA. (Gage Skidmore/CC BY-SA 2.0)(Gage Skidmore / CC BY-SA 2.0)

As an alternative to the Senate’s bipartisan Affordable Care Act (ACA) stabilization bill, two top Republicans have offered up their own proposal aimed at winning over reluctant conservatives.

The plan is the brainchild of Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch of Utah and House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady of Texas. Like the bill floated by the Senate HELP Committee’s Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., and Patty Murray, D-Wash., the Hatch-Brady plan would fund cost-sharing reduction payments for two years.

But it diverges from the Alexander-Murray measure by taking aim at two of the ACA’s least popular provisions: the individual and employer mandates. Under Hatch-Brady, both mandates would be lifted from 2017-2021.

Lifting those mandates was reportedly a condition that President Donald Trump had for supporting the Alexander-Murray bill, but prominent Democrats—including Murray—have indicated they wouldn’t support such changes.

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The law’s individual and employer mandates are seen by some policy experts as a necessary lever to encourage young, healthy individuals to buy insurance—though others have questioned whether the tax penalty for refusing coverage is effective enough to justify it.   

The Hatch-Brady proposal would also expand health savings accounts to increase the maximum contribution limit allowable. The two lawmakers said that they will make a draft of the bill available “in the coming days.”

In what was likely a reference to the Alexander-Murray bill, Brady said in Tuesday's release that millions of Americans need relief from the current healthcare law, “not a reinforcement of today’s failed status quo.”

“As I have said all along, if Congress is going to appropriate funds for CSRs, we must include meaningful structural reforms that provide Americans relief from Obamacare,” Hatch added.

Indeed, Hatch has been critical of Alexander and Murray's negotiations for some time, penning an op-ed in September that argued the solutions they were considering would "shore up the bad policies already in place with another slate of bad policies."