Washington Sen. Patty Murray (D) and Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn), chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, announced this week a plan to hold bipartisan hearings to discuss potential fixes for the individual health insurance market.
"I have said from the beginning, our health care system in this country is still not good enough. People need affordable, quality, accessible healthcare and too many Americans are facing challenges," Senator Murray told KING 5.
News of the bipartisan health committee hearings follows last week's failed vote on the Senate floor of the GOP repeal and replace effort.
Three Republican Senators, John McCain of Arizona, Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska broke party lines and voted with all Democratic Senators against the bill.
The bipartisan health hearings held by Senators Murray and Alexander are expected to begin in early September and will include stakeholders such as state insurance commissioners, governors, healthcare experts, consumers, patients and doctors.
"One of the things we do hear constantly is the uncertainty in the marketplace is causing insurance companies to charge more because they don’t know what’s going to happen in the future, so they cover themselves," said Murray. "We know that there is not enough competition in the market today, so how do we bring that in, and we know that not enough young people are signing up for insurance. But we want to hear from the experts about the best ways to address that."
Senator Murray also said mixed messages from the Trump administration regarding Affordable Care Act subsidies, known as cost sharing payments has led to increased instability in the individual market.
"One thing we do know – is the sabotaging of Obamacare, by this administration, has caused some of that uncertainty," she said.
She said that's one area where common ground may be found in Congress in an effort to bring stability to the marketplace.
Amid market instability and uncertainty, health insurers in Washington State proposed 2018 rate increases ranging from 12 to 38% depending on the provider.
Insurers are also offering significantly fewer plans in the individual market, particularly in parts of the state.
Additionally, Regence Blueshield sent out notices earlier this summer informing patients that individual health plans would no longer be offered in Western Washington.
Washington State Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler will spend the rest of the summer reviewing the insurers proposed 2018 plans before approving the changes, likely in September.