Sometimes, even in these precarious times of stress and uncertainty, there is cause to breathe an occasional sigh of relief.
Some bad news from late last week was that President Donald Trump issued an executive order ending subsidies that currently allow low-income Americans to purchase healthcare from the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) marketplace exchange.
Blaming Obama, Trump accused ACA cost-sharing reduction (CSR) payments of being unlawful and “yet another example of how the previous administration abused taxpayer dollars and skirted the law to prop up a broken system.”
Good news this week, though, is that Senators Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and Patty Murray (D-Wash.) have reached a short-term limited deal to stabilize health care markets, including the cost-sharing reduction subsidies five days ago Trump asserted he would not support.
Senate Health Committee Chair, Sen. Alexander cautioned there is no guarantee from Senate leadership there will be a vote, but he and Sen. Murray, Senate Health Committee ranking member, plan to assemble co-sponsors and present the bill to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY).
Sen. Alexander said:
“This is a small step. I’d like to undersell it, not oversell it.”
Sen. Schumer told CNN he thinks this is a “very good step forward,” “a good solution” that received “broad support” from the Democratic caucus. He added the deal includes “anti-sabotage” provisions.
It is unclear whether President Trump supports the recent deal.
A White House official told CNBC:
“We will not provide bailouts to insurance companies until we provide the American people with relief from the Obamacare disaster.”
“We want the money to go to the people. The insurance companies have absolutely taken advantage of this country and our people and I stopped it by stopping the CSRs…. I’ll say this, we have to work a deal. Any deal that we work with the Democrats, we’re also going to have to work with the insurance companies.”
But the money has to pass from the people to insurance companies in order for people to purchase the coverage insurance companies sell.
Without the cost-sharing reductions, or subsidies, underscoring it, the ACA will fail, which is exactly what Trump and Republican want so they can return to their constituents, many of whom rely heavily on the ACA, and claim they were correct in their dire predictions regarding the law’s failure.
Former White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon admitted as much last week at the Values Voter Summit.
Cost-sharing reductions help lower-income Americans afford insurance coverage. During the Obama administration, House Republicans filed and won a lawsuit over CSR constitutionality. The Obama administration appealed and continued making payments, worth an estimated $7 billion a year.
The Alexander-Murray deal restores $106 million for ACA outreach and enrollment which the Trump administration slashed from $100 million to $10 million. It also cut nearly $30 million in funding from nonprofit groups that help people enroll in the ACA.
For now, it seems, we’re in the clear.
Until the next time the GOP tries to “repeal and replace.”
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