Sens. Alexander, Murray Announce Short-Term Fix for Failing Obamacare

By Susan Jones | October 18, 2017 | 7:05 AM EDT

Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) discusses a bipartisan bill to shore up Obamacare over the short term. (Photo: Screen grab/C-SPAN)

(CNSNews.com) - Sens. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and Patty Murray (D-Wash.) say they've come up with a short-term, bipartisan agreement to fix a flawed element of Obamacare.

Their bill would authorize cost-sharing reduction (CSR) payments to insurance companies, which allow the companies to lower the cost of premiums for poor people. President Trump last week ended the CSR payments, which were handed out by the Obama administration without the necessary congressional authorization.

“Senator Murray and I hope that we can present this legislation to Senator McConnell and Senator Schumer, with the support of a significant number of senators," Alexander said on Tuesday. "We hope that it will pass, the House of Representatives will agree to it, and the president will sign it."

Alexander said he's had "encouraging discussions" with President Trump, "who called me on two different occasions encouraging me to work with Senator Murray to come to a bipartisan agreement. I'm grateful to him for that encouragement, and I'm grateful to her.”

President Trump tweeted on Wednesday morning: I am supportive of Lamar as a person & also of the process, but I can never support bailing out ins co's who have made a fortune w/ O'Care."

Alexander and Murray say their bill will "stabilize" the chaotic health insurance market by authorizing two years of temporary cost-sharing payments; and by giving the states "meaningful flexibility" to innovate, under section 1332 of the Affordable Care Act.

Section 1332 permits a state to apply for a State Innovation Waiver "to pursue innovative strategies for providing their residents with access to high quality, affordable health insurance while retaining the basic protections of the ACA," according to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.

President Trump on Tuesday once again proclaimed that Obamacare is dead. He spoke to reporters about the Alexander-Murray bill during a Rose Garden appearance with the Greek prime minister:

And this is a short-term deal, because we think ultimately block grants going to the states is going to be the answer. That's a very good solution. We think it's going to not only save money, but give people much better health care with a very, very much smaller premium spike, and you look with what's gone on with that. Also, much lower deductibles so they can use it.

Lamar has been working very, very hard with the Democratic -- his colleagues on the other side. And Patty Murray is one of them, in particular. And they're coming up, and they're fairly close to a short-term solution.

The solution will be for about a year or two years. And it'll get us over this intermediate hump. Because we have -- as you probably know, we have -- either have the votes or we're very close to having the votes, and we will get the votes for having really the potential of having great health care in our country.

So they are indeed working. But it is a short-term solution so that we don't have this very dangerous little period, including dangerous period for insurance companies, by the way. For a period of one year, two years we will have a very good solution.

But we're going to have a great solution ultimately for health care, OK? And they are working together and I know very much what they're doing, OK?

 

According to Alexander, only about six percent of Americans, or 18 million people, get their insurance in the individual market. He said they're all "terrified" by the prospect of not being able to afford it.

"The best course is to take this limited bipartisan first step to avoid the chaos that could occur during 2018 and 2019 if premiums continue to skyrocket and millions of Americans find themselves without a way to purchase health insurance.”

Sen. Patty Murray said she's proud to support the bill, "not only because of these important steps to strengthen our health care system—but because of the message it sends about the best way to get things done in Congress."

Alexander and Murray note that their bill emerged from four bipartisan hearings and other committee meetings.

“I hope [this] will set the health care discussion in Congress on a very different path than the one we’ve seen for the last seven years,” Murray said.

 

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