Memo from Sevier County Chair Barbara Wagner “Lawmakers face fallout from Trump’s ObamaCare moves”

Call Senator Alexander and remind him of the thousands of Tennesseans that will be harmed if his committee can’t fix the ACA and continue the subsidy payments to help people find affordable health insurance coverage. Senator Alexander:  DC: 202-224-4944, Knoxville  (865) 545-4253

Lawmakers face Fallout from Trump’s ObamaCare moves

 All eyes are on Sens. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and Patty Murray (D-Wash.), the leaders of the Senate Health Committee who have been working to craft a bipartisan deal to stabilize the insurance markets.

Their efforts grew more urgent late Thursday night when President Trump announced he was halting key payments to insurers.

Before the Senate’s weeklong recess, Alexander said he had agreed to fund the payments for two years, but there hasn’t been a bipartisan agreement on an overall package.

Known as cost-sharing reduction payments, these funds compensate insurers for discounting the out-of-pocket costs of some lower-income ObamaCare enrollees. The administration has been making the payments on a monthly basis. Meanwhile, insurers have been pleading for certainty that the payments will continue on a long-term basis.

At issue is the fact that insurers still have to offer these discounts. In their premiums, some insurers accounted for the fact the payments might not continue — but not all did. It remains to be seen if rates can be changed and also if insurers will exit the marketplaces.

“Many insurers anticipated that [cost-sharing reduction] payments might end and set their premiums accordingly,” Larry Levitt, a Kaiser Family Foundation senior vice president, wrote in an email. “Some insurers were less pessimistic, and some states did not let insurers assume that [cost-sharing reduction] payments would end and hike their premiums. So, the fallout over the next few weeks will vary from state by state.”

Open enrollment for people to sign up for plans on is looming, beginning Nov. 1.

But it’s also unclear if Alexander and Murray can reach a deal that could reach Trump’s desk. Democrats are pushing to restore the payments. But conservative lawmakers, including GOP leaders, oppose what they see as a subsidy to insurers.

The fight over Trump’s move, though, could drag on. More than 15 states are also suing to stop Trump from halting the payments.

ObamaCare isn’t the only big issue on the health care front.

Lawmakers are scrambling after funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), community health centers and a few other health programs expired at the end of September.

The Senate Finance Committee passed a bipartisan five-year extension of CHIP but has yet to release how it will pay for the bill.

The House Energy and Commerce Committee passed a partisan bill to fund CHIP and community health centers. But Democrats slammed the legislation’s offsets, which would have cut funds to an ObamaCare public health fund and required older, wealthier Americans to pay higher Medicare premiums. Greg Walden (R-Ore.) agreed Tuesday to delay a vote on the bill, so the parties could renegotiate how to pay for the programs.

However, that effort did not appear to have yielded any changes.

“It’s clear that House Republicans want to use reauthorization of children’s health insurance and Community Health Centers as a way to further undermine the Affordable Care Act and weaken Medicare,” the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s ranking member, Rep. Frank Pallone Jr. (D-N.J), said in a statement Friday afternoon.

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