ACA exchange stabilization funding doesn't make the cut in massive $1.3T spending bill

Washington, D.C. National Capitol Building
A $1.3B spending bill, released by the House and Senate, contains no funding to lower marketplace premiums. (Getty/tupungato)

Legislation to stabilize the ACA exchanges has hit a major roadblock following the release of a massive two-year spending bill by Republican lawmakers in the House and Senate.

The $1.3 trillion package, unveiled Wednesday evening, provides $88 billion in appropriations to the Department of Health and Human Services, but includes no funding for ACA exchanges, long sought after by lawmakers. 

The bill must pass both chambers before Friday at midnight to avert another government shutdown. 

Conference

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The latest legislation to reduce marketplace premiums was announced only days prior to the spending bill's release. Co-sponsored by four Republicans, Lamar Alexander and Susan Collins in the Senate and Greg Walden and Ryan Costello in the House, the Bipartisan Health Care Stabilization Act of 2018 (BHCSA) would have included three years of funding for reinsurance and cost-sharing reduction payments as well as authorization for new "catastrophic" copper plans.

The Congressional Budget Office estimated the bill would have reduced insurance premiums by 10 percent in 2019 and by 20 percent in 2020 and 2021. The CBO also found that the Republican legislation could have reduced the deficit, according to an alternative estimate requested by Alexander. 

The omnibus may be lawmakers' best and last chance to get marketplace stabilization measures passed. Without the stabilization, Americans could see dramatic insurance premium increases ahead of the 2018 midterm elections. 

RELATED: Republicans unveil their ACA stabilization plan, but House keeps it out of omnibus spending bill

Condemnation from industry

Health insurance companies and industry groups were quick to denounce the absence of any measure to prop up the insurance market.

"Premium reduction measures in the individual market would have ensured that Americans who buy their own coverage had more affordable choices that offer access to high-quality care," America's Health Insurance Plans (AHIP) said in a statement Wednesday night. 

"We are disappointed that Congress was unable to take this opportunity to help reduce premiums for hardworking Americans."

Justine Handelman, senior vice president at Blue Cross Blue Shield Association, expressed her dissatisfaction to Forbes following the bill's release and said stabilization measures "would have made coverage more affordable for individuals and families, especially those who are not eligible for assistance in purchasing coverage."

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