Understanding The Bipartisan Insurance Deal Struck by the Senate Health Committee
A deal was struck by Senators, Lamar Alexander, Republican of Tennessee, and Patty Murray, Democrat of Washington, to keep the Affordable Care Act Markets for health insurance afloat for the next two years while the GOP continue in their efforts to change the law.
The bipartisan deal was made Tuesday, October 17th, 2017. The agreement was to continue cost-sharing reduction payments (CSR) for the next 24 months in exchange for more state flexibility in Obamacare. Both sides agreed to the deal after long negotiations. For Democrats, the CSR payments are the payments President Trump has long threatened to cut off, which would send the Affordable Care Act into a death spiral, resulting in an increase in insurance rates for low and middle income Americans⎯putting an end to Obamacare. Continuing the CSR payments will sustain federal reimbursement subsidies to insurers and incentivize health insurance companies to remain in the market. Unfortunately, some health insurance companies have already dropped out of 2018’s ACA marketplace, believing Trump’s threats to stop the CSR Payments, but will have the option to rejoin for 2019 bringing more options for enrollees next year.
This deal will not allow Republicans to remove the ACA mandate which protects people with pre-existing conditions and access to essential health benefits by agreeing to continue the CSR payments. For Republican Senator Lamar Alexander, the deal will allow states easier processing time for waivers to customize rules for Obamacare. These waivers can provide permissions on use of federal funds for reinsurance programs that reduce premiums. GOP lawmakers have said states could use these funds to lower cholesterol-reducing drugs or chose to start charging more in co-payments for opioid prescriptions.
Republicans also saw many benefits in the agreement by allowing those enrolled in Obamacare to sign up for “catastrophic plans,” which have low premiums and higher deductibles. Before this deal was made, these health insurance policies were only open to those under 30. Included with opening up access to these “Copper” plans, this deal appealed to Democrats by adding $106 million in funding to Obamacare enrollment.
Despite the progress made to continue stability in the health insurance markets and provide more time for further negotiations across party lines, the Trump administration is still hard at work pressing Congress to come up with with a plan that will ultimately replace the Affordable Care Act. While speaking at the Heritage Foundation in Washington, President Trump commented on the latest deal made by the Senate Healthcare Committee:
“While I commend the bipartisan work done by Senators Alexander and Murray, and I do commend it, I continue to believe Congress must find a solution to the Obamacare mess instead of providing bailouts to insurance companies.”
As it stands right now, the deal struck by Senators Lamar Alexander and Patty Murray has shown progress in months of negotiations between parties to keep the health insurance markets stable. The GOP is now in a dilemma between the responsibility to protect millions of Americans from losing healthcare and it’s obligation to withhold the promise to completely replace the ACA and Obamacare. Twenty-four Senators (12 Republicans and 12 Democrats) have signed on to the legislation; which may give it the votes to pass the USCC; but only time with tell if the House and President Trump will take the bipartisan deal and pass it into law.
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Haberkorn, Jennifer (2017, October 17). Alexander, Murray strike bipartisan Obamacare deal providing subsidies, state flexibility. Politico Magazine. Retrieved from http://www.politico.com/story/2017/10/17/alexander-and-murray-say-theyve-struck-bipartisan-obamacare-deal-243872.
Kaplan, Thomas and Pear, Robert (2017, October 17), 2 Senators Strike Deal on Health Subsidies That Trump Cut Off. New York Times Magazine. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2017/10/17/us/politics/alexander-murray-deal-obamacare-subsidies.html.
Fox, Lauren (2017, October 18). Bipartisan senators reach small deal on health care. CNN Politics. Retrieved from http://www.cnn.com/2017/10/17/politics/health-care-csr-payments-deal-reached/index.html.
Davis, Susan (2017, October 19). Sure, There’s A Health Care Deal. That Doesn’t Mean It Can Pass. NPR Politics. Retrieved from http://www.npr.org/2017/10/19/558797082/sure-theres-a-health-care-deal-that-doesn-t-mean-it-can-pass.
CBS Associated Press (2017, October 19). Alexander and Murray announce 24 co-sponsors of bipartisan Obamacare fix. CBS News. Retrieved from https://www.cbsnews.com/news/alexander-and-murray-announce-co-sponsors-of-bipartisan-obamacare-fix/.