Politics

Two Republicans unveil plan that would fund Obamacare payments

Counters bipartisan Alexander-Murray bill

WASHINGTON (CNN) - Two top congressional Republicans unveiled a plan Tuesday that would fund key Obamacare payments, but would strike, for at least a few years, central components of the Affordable Care Act.

The plan is a direct competitor to a bipartisan deal that was announced earlier this month by Sens. Lamar Alexander, a Republican from Tennessee, and Patty Murray, a Democrat from Washington.

While President Donald Trump has sent mixed messages on the Alexander-Murray bill, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell signaled openness to putting it on the Senate floor for a vote if Trump would give his blessing.

The new Republican-only measure seems to muddy the waters surrounding the debate about what should happen to cost sharing reduction (CSR) payments, funding from the government that reimburses insurers for helping low-income people cover their out-of-pocket health care costs.

House Ways and Means Chairman Kevin Brady and the Senate Finance Chairman Orrin Hatch announced their plan Tuesday.

"As I have said all along, if Congress is going to appropriate funds for CSRs, we must include meaningful structural reforms that provide Americans relief from Obamacare," Hatch said in a statement about the new bill.

The White House had been making the CSR payments unilaterally, but Trump announced earlier this month he was ceasing those payments. Without them, health care experts warn that the cost of insurance premiums could go up and that insurers could pull out of the Obamacare marketplace.

In a statement, Alexander said "It is encouraging to see a growing consensus that Congress should fund the cost-sharing reduction payments for two more years."

Asked about the new GOP proposal, Rep. Jim Jordan, a member of the House Freedom Caucus, told reporters, "We should not be funding the CSRs."

He added, "we should do what we told the American people we were going to do and pass that legislation (repeal and replace), not some bailout for insurance companies."

The GOP-only framework announced Tuesday skews much closer to what the White House has asked for in a proposal, but faces a major stumbling block. The Republican plan would fund CSR payments through 2019, but would also scrap the individual mandate that requires nearly all Americans have health insurance as well as the employer mandate that employers provide it.

The bill includes repeal elements of Obamacare that are likely not going to win support from Democrats. The Republican Party will still need 60 votes in the Senate -- that includes at least a handful of Democrats -- to pass their new proposal.

This story has been updated.


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