Though he stands behind the decision to end cost-sharing reduction payments, President Donald Trump has now also voiced support for a bipartisan effort in Congress that could result in funding the key Affordable Care Act subsidies.
During a press conference with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Monday, Trump said he’s “very happy with what I did,” adding that his announcement about ending CSRs spurred both sides of the aisle to start talking about a compromise on healthcare.
“I believe Republicans and Democrats are, as we speak, working together very hard, right now—working together to do an intermediate plan, a short-term plan, because Obamacare is a disaster,” Trump said.
Previously, a federal judge ruled that CSR payments are technically illegal because Congress never appropriated them. But the Trump administration had been issuing the payments on a month-by-month basis while it decided how to handle an appeal of that decision initiated by the Obama administration.
The decision to stop doing so has led insurers, providers and other influential groups to call on Congress to appropriate the funds permanently—or risk imperiling consumers and destabilizing the ACA exchanges.
In fact, the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee has been working for months on a measure to fund CSRs and stabilize the ACA, but some conservative lawmakers—and even Trump himself—have expressed skepticism about the idea of continuing what they see as insurer “bailouts.”
Thus, the key to reaching a compromise on an ACA stabilization bill may end up being how much Democrats are willing to concede. Senate HELP Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., told Politico that Trump has indicated he wants to see “meaningful flexibility for the states” in return for CSR funding.
To some Republicans, though, that flexibility means seeking to roll back bigger chunks of the ACA’s regulations—which may cause Democrats to balk, the Los Angeles Times notes.
“I think we’re encouraged that there are people talking, but I think that we do have a policy difference,” Marc Short, the White House’s director of legislative affairs, told the publication.
Bennet, Kaine chart their own course on healthcare
Two swing-state Democrats in the Senate—Colorado’s Michael Bennet and Virginia’s Tim Kaine—are planning to unveil legislation this week that offers a more moderate approach than Sen. Bernie Sanders’ “Medicare-for-all” proposal, according to The Washington Post.
Their plan would allow non-elderly individuals to buy into Medicare, and those with lower incomes would get tax credits to help them afford it. In its initial years, the option would only be available to counties with one or zero ACA exchange option. It would essentially function as the “public option” that Democrats mulled, and ultimately scrapped, when crafting the current healthcare law.
“Consumers can compare it with available private options and make the choice best for their health,” Kaine said.