President Trump continues to give mixed messages over his support for a bipartisan health deal reached by Washington Senator Patty Murray and Tennessee Senator Lamar Alexander.
On Thursday, he appeared to signal support for the legislation, as a short-term fix.
“Anything they’re working on will be short term, absolutely short term, because ultimately will be repeal and replace,” said President Trump.
His comments come as the bill negotiated by Senators Murray and Alexander gains momentum in the Senate; it currently has 24 co-sponsors, including 12 Republicans and 12 Democrats.
“This is a first step,” said Senator Alexander in a speech aimed at his colleagues. “Improve it, and pass it sooner rather than later.”
“We can do much better working together under regular order rather than doubling down on partisanship and dysfunction,” Senator Murray said in a speech following Alexander’s.
The Murray, Alexander bill ensures funding for Affordable Care Act subsidies known as cost sharing reduction (CSR) payments for the next two years, while also giving states more flexibility to establish their own programs such as reinsurance, or high-risk pools.
Additionally, the legislation would allow additional enrollees the option to purchase lower cost, catastrophic “copper plans,” as well as a section as to restore investment in outreach ahead of upcoming open enrollment.
“The negotiations are always tough,” said Senator Murray Thursday. “There's things you disagree on, and you have to work your way to an answer. The one issue we did not disagree on, but we worked the hardest on and had the most discussion on, was how we make sure we have the language in place on this that consumers benefit, and it is not a bailout for insurers.”
“We have a page and a half to make it clear that the benefits go to consumers not insurance companies,” added Senator Alexander.
A provision requires states to certify that qualified health plan insurers that receive cost sharing reduction payments ensure that consumers and the federal government receive a financial benefit.
In Washington’s individual market, insurers have proposed an average 22% rate increase for 2018, with an additional 9 to 27% on top of that, if CSRs are not funded.
The steep increases come as the state’s top three insurers, Kaiser (formerly Group Health), Premera and Regence sit on a collective $3.5 billion surplus, according to documents filed with the Insurance Commissioner’s Office.
“I don't want the insurance companies making any more money than they have to,” President Trump told reporters Thursday, referencing gains made by some insurers.
The health insurance, CSR debate rages on, against a running clock. Open enrollment begins November 1.
“Unless (CSRs) replaced with something else temporarily, there will be chaos in this country and millions of Americans will be hurt,” warned Alexander.
While the timeline of a potential vote on the bill is unknown, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-New York, has indicated all Democrats would likely support the legislation, meaning it would likely pass if brought to the floor.
It’s future in the U.S. House remains less clear. GOP leadership has not yet indicated support for the proposal. Washington Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers, the fourth ranking Republican in the House, has not yet responded to repeated requests for comment.
Senators who have cosponsored Murray, Alexander bill:
Senators Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Richard Burr (R-NC), Tom Carper (D-DE), Bill Cassidy (R-LA), Susan Collins (R-ME), Bob Corker (R-TN), Joe Donnelly (D-IN), Joni Ernst (R-IA), Al Franken (D-MN), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Charles Grassley (R-IA), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND), Johnny Isakson (R-GA), Angus King (I-ME), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Joe Manchin (D-WV), John McCain (R-AZ), Claire McCaskill (D-MO), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Mike Rounds (R-SD), and Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH)