Sen. Elizabeth Warren introduces bill to make ACA plans more affordable, tighten controls on private payers

U.S. Capitol building
Sen. Elizabeth Warren has introduced a bill that takes aim at the ACA exchanges. (Pixabay)

Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren introduced a bill Wednesday that would increase subsidies offered to people buying insurance on the ACA exchanges and would impose tighter controls on private payers. 

The bill (PDF)—called the Consumer Health Insurance Protection Act—aims to make plans in the Affordable Care Act's marketplaces more affordable and reliable. Under the plan, people purchasing ACA plans would not spend more than 8.5% of their income on insurance premiums. 

In addition to increasing subsidies for coverage, Warren's plan would make those funds easier for people to obtain.  

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Warren's bill also seeks to exercise greater control over private payers. It would set profit limits for private insurers to match what they can earn from Medicare and Medicaid plans and suggests an ombudsman program to monitor consumer complaints. 

The bill would also require payers who profit off of Medicare or Medicaid plans also offer health plans on the ACA exchanges that have limited competition. 

"So long as private health insurance exists, there is no reason to allow our healthcare to be held hostage by insurance companies that refuse to do better," Warren said in announcement. "Our bill will hold them accountable while significantly improving access to healthcare for millions of Americans." 

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The bill is cosponsored by Sens. Maggie Hassan, D-N.H., Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., Kamala Harris, D-Calif., Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis., and Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y. All the senators sans Hassan also back Sanders' "Medicare for all" plan, which would expand Medicare coverage to every American. 

Warren introduced the bill as legislators on both sides of the aisle debate potential fixes that aim to stabilize the ACA markets. But a partisan dispute over abortion language added by Republicans could derail these talks, especially as the deadline to include the ACA fixes in the omnibus spending bill looms.