A bipartisan group of senators is working on a strategy to fix the Affordable Care Act marketplaces in case Republicans fail to repeal the law, but the prospects of them actually brokering a compromise may be rather dim.
Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del., told reporters Wednesday that both Democrats and Republicans have “had great conversations” about what to do if the Senate’s Better Care Reconciliation Act fails, according to USA Today. Senate GOP leaders hope to vote on a revised version of that measure next week, but are struggling to get enough votes to ensure its passage.
Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, said she’s been approached by several Democrats about a bipartisan effort to fix the exchanges, The Wall Street Journal reported.
“Anyone who has looked at the state of the individual and small-group [insurance] markets across this country knows that doing nothing is not an option,” she said.
The state of the marketplaces, however, might not actually be that dire, based on a report released this week. It found signs that the individual market is stabilizing and that insurers are headed toward regaining profitability.
Still, some insurers are pulling out of the exchanges next year, while others are requesting steep rate hikes—in large part due to policy uncertainty.
Regardless of how much the individual marketplaces actually need fixing, however, it will be challenging for the two political parties to agree on ways to improve them. Democrats would prefer to increase funding, while Republicans would want to alter or repeal parts of the ACA, Politico noted.
And to Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch, the possibility of a true bipartisan effort to fix the ACA—rather than repeal it—seems dubious since the party has long promised to get rid of the law.
“I don’t think Republicans can do that,” he said.
Graham, Cassidy work on their own healthcare bill
Republican senators Lindsey Graham of North Carolina and Bill Cassidy of Louisiana don't think the Senate's bill to repeal and replace the ACA will work, so they came up with their own idea.
Their version of healthcare reform would maintain the ACA's taxes on the wealthy, sending the estimated $500 billion in revenue from them to the states, according to CNN. But they would repeal the ACA's individual and employer mandate penalties, as well as the medical device tax.
The concept is based on the Welfare Reform Act of 1996, which converted the federal program to block grants to the states, the article notes.
Editor's note: This article has been updated to include information about the Graham-Cassidy healthcare proposal.