Politico

Centrist lawmakers plot bipartisan health care stabilization bill

Written by Lisa

A coalition of roughly 40 House Republicans and Democrats plan to unveil a slate of Obamacare fixes Monday they hope will gain traction after the Senate’s effort to repeal the law imploded.

The Problem Solvers caucus, led by Tom Reed (R-N.Y.) and Josh Gottheimer (D-N.J.), is fronting the effort to stabilize the ACA markets, according to multiple sources. But other centrist members, including Rep. Kurt Schrader (D-Ore.), and several other lawmakers from the New Democrat Coalition and the GOP’s moderate Tuesday Group are also involved.

Their plan focuses on immediately stabilizing the insurance market and then pushing for Obamacare changes that have received bipartisan backing in the past.

The most significant proposal is funding for Obamacare’s cost-sharing subsidies. Insurers rely on these payments – estimated to be $7 billion this year – to reduce out-of-pocket costs for their poorest Obamacare customers.

President Trump has repeatedly threatened to cut off the payments, deriding them as a “bailout” for insurance companies. White House counselor Kelly Conway said on Sunday that Trump will decide “this week” whether to scrap the subsidies — which could make the markets implode.

The bipartisan working group also wants to change Obamacare’s employer mandate so that it applies only to companies with more than 500 workers. Currently companies with at least 50 workers can be hit with a tax penalty if they don’t provide coverage to their workers.

The group also wants to create a federal stability fund – dollar amount unspecified — that states can tap to reduce premiums and other costs for people with extremely expensive medical needs. Both the Senate and House repeal packages contained similar pots of money.

The bipartisan proposal also calls for scrapping Obamacare’s medical-device tax, an idea that has received bipartisan support in the past.

Finally, the working group is seeking greater flexibility for state innovation. Obamacare already allows state to seek waivers from coverage rules, but the lawmakers want additional guidance on how states can take advantage of them.

The roll out of their stabilization agenda follows months of private meetings between various members involved in the House’s centrist caucuses about ways to stabilize Obamacare if the GOP’s repeal effort sputtered.

The push was intensified after the Senate’s repeal collapsed in the wee hours of Friday morning when Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), and John McCain (R-Ariz.) joined with all Democrats to reject the GOP’s “skinny repeal.”

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