The latest effort to kick start health care for 2018 — a bipartisan bill to restore insurance company subsidies for low-income Americans — has drawn 24 sponsors in the U.S. Senate from both sides of the aisle, evenly divided, but still faces stiff opposition in the House of Representatives amid mixed signals from the White House.
The bill, crafted by Democratic Senator Patty Murray of Washington and GOP Senator Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, would restore the cost-sharing reduction (CSR) payments to insurers participating in the Affordable Care Act (ACA) healthcare marketplaces for two years, plus give states more flexibility in crafting policy standards and open up the catastrophic health insurance market to everyone.
The announcement of the two dozen sponsors of the Alexander-Murray bill came on the heels of a new poll showing strong public support for restarting the payments to insurers.
While President Trump initially backed the plan, he has since sent mixed signals, including outright opposition. House Speaker Paul Ryan says, basically, that the Senate should forget this bill and return to the “repeal and replace” of Obamacare. If it comes to the floor of the Senate, which is up to Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R.-Ky.), the bill seems poised to pass easily, but its path from there is unclear.
It was just a week ago that President Trump ended the CSR subsidies, calling them “illegal” since they had never been appropriated by Congress. All the time, however, he was working with Senator Alexander to get a bipartisan fix in the works. When the bill was announced, the president initially signaled his support, but within days had flip-flopped from reservation about it to outright opposition.
Republican co-sponsors include the three who killed the last Senate effort at repeal and replace, Senators John McCain of Arizona, Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska. Even the two authors of the last repeal bill — Senators Lindsay Graham of South Carolina and Bill Cassidy of Louisiana — signed on as co-sponsors.