Trump, Back Obamacare Stabilization: Democrats


President Donald Trump should back congressional efforts to pass narrowly tailored legislation that would help stabilize the Obamacare markets, two Democrats said.

“This is a real test,” former Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear (D) said at a policy conference I covered. “I don’t think the leadership of the House or Senate will make this happen. I think they need to head to the White House.”

Premiums look likely to spike in 2018 for the second year in a row as more insurers have continued to withdraw from the money-losing markets.

The Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) held four hearings in September at which a bipartisan group of state insurance regulators, governors, and health-care stakeholders called for Congress to appropriate money to cover out-of-pocket subsidies for low-income people, as well as for a backstop reinsurance program to cover high-cost claims.

Doing that by the end of September would help stabilize the individual markets in 2018, according to testimony given at the hearings. “If the president came out and endorsed that, that would almost guarantee that it happens,” Rep. Frank Pallone of New Jersey, the ranking Democrat on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, said.

But Senate HELP Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) has warned that Democrats need to be willing to make bigger compromises on giving states flexibility to make changes to benefit designs in order to get Republicans to go along with greater funding for the cost-sharing reduction subsidies and extending a reinsurance program.

“This is a really big deal for Republicans to go along with,” Tevi Troy, deputy secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services in the George W. Bush administration, said. The additional funding amounts to propping up the Affordable Care Act, “which is something that a lot of Republicans have been running against” for seven years.

“In this compromise, both sides have to give something,” Troy said. “They would need to see some real changes,” including more flexibility for governors to make choices about the level of benefits that would be provided.

The ACA requires that health plans offer a comprehensive set of benefits called essential health benefits. Reducing benefits should lower premiums and help attract more young, healthy people into the exchanges, where older, sicker people have predominated.

But Marilyn Tavenner, president and chief executive officer of America’s Health Insurance Plans, said insurers want to offer the essential health benefits along with delivery and payment reforms that bring down health-care costs and premiums.

Read my full article here.

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