'Problem Solvers Caucus' outlines bipartisan healthcare policy fixes in lieu of ACA repeal

After Senate Republicans failed to repeal the Affordable Care Act, a bipartisan group of lawmakers responded by devising a set of healthcare policy proposals that they say will shore up the law’s shaky individual marketplaces.

On Monday, the “Problem Solvers Caucus," co-chaired by Rep. Tom Reed, R-N.Y., and Rep. Josh Gottheimer, D-N.J., released a set of recommendations that draws on ideas from both sides of the aisle. One is an issue that health insurers themselves have long urged: Ensure mandatory funding for the cost-sharing reduction program.

President Donald Trump has repeatedly threatened to end the payments, which a judge has ruled are unconstitutional since they were never appropriated by Congress. An appeal of that decision is currently on hold, making the subsidies’ future uncertain. To get around that issue, the Problem Solvers Caucus suggests bringing the payments under the congressional oversight and appropriations process.

The caucus’ other ideas include:

  • Repeal the medical device tax
  • Provide “technical changes and clear guidelines” for states to take innovative approaches to improving coverage options and competition for their residents
  • Change the employer mandate by requiring that businesses with 500 employees or more—rather than 50 or more—provide insurance to their employees, and specifying that a full-time workweek is 40 hours.
  • Create a stability fund that states can use to reduce premiums and limit insurers’ losses

Rep. Tom Suozzi, D-N.J., one of the vice-chairmen of the caucus, called the set of ideas an “oasis in a desert of dysfunction” when it comes to healthcare policy.

RELATED: Healthcare executives call for bipartisan health reform

“By shoring up the individual marketplace and offering Americans much-needed relief, the Problem Solvers’ plan will keep the U.S. healthcare system stabilized and allow it to prosper,” he said.

What the Senate says

Meanwhile, despite the Trump administration’s efforts to prod them to try again on repealing the ACA, Republican senators did not appear moved to action.

“It’s time to move onto something else, come back to healthcare when we’ve had more time to get beyond the moment we’re in,” Missouri Sen. Roy Blunt, a member of the GOP leadership, told the Associated Press.

However, a few senators were willing to answer President Donald Trump’s call to continue pursuing a healthcare overhaul.

Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-La., headed to the White House on Monday to meet with Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price to discuss healthcare, The Hill reports. And Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., met with Trump on Friday to discuss a proposal he’s working on with Cassidy and Nevada Republican Sen. Dean Heller.

Their plan would reroute funding earmarked for the ACA directly to states in the form of annual block grants, giving them almost-total control over how to use the money, according to Politico. Yet that plan has myriad drawbacks—for example, it would still necessitate deep spending cuts and could result in a complicated patchwork of individual insurance markets across the country.

Editor's note: This article has been updated.