Breakthrough deal reached to resume payments to health insurers
(CNN) — Sens. Lamar Alexander and Patty Murray have reached a deal “in principle” to restore Affordable Care Act cost-sharing reduction payments for two years in exchange for more state flexibility in Obamacare, according to two Senate aides.
One Senate aide said the plan would also restore just over $100 million in funding for Obamacare outreach.
An Alexander aide told CNN that Republicans would get a provision they wanted, a major change in how states measure the affordability of insurance under their waiver requests. This would allow states a lot more flexibility, but that final language was still being ironed out.
The deal would make it easier for states to obtain waivers to customize Obamacare rules to their needs. Alaska and Minnesota, for instance, have received permission to use federal funds for reinsurance programs that reduce premiums. States have complained that applying for waivers is a long and complicated process.
The agreement would also allow all Obamacare enrollees to sign up for so-called catastrophic plans, which have lower premiums but have higher deductibles. Right now, these policies are only open to those under 30.
There are no guarantees that Republican leadership would bring such a plan to the floor without significant support from rank-and-file members. Getting a sizable number of co-sponsors will be key to the Murray and Alexander’s success. That work has yet to begin.
President Donald Trump, when asked about the deal, called it a “short-term solution” but appeared supportive of the proposal.
“We have been involved, and this is a short-term deal because we think ultimately block grants going to the states is going to be the answer,” Trump said in the Rose Garden.
His comments were consistent with what he said over the weekend. During a phone call Saturday, Trump told Alexander that he supported the effort to reach a bipartisan deal on the CSR payments.
“Lamar has been working very, very hard with … his colleagues on the other side, and, Patty Murray is one of them in particular, and they’re coming up, and they’re fairly close to a short-term solution,” Trump continued. “The solution will be for about a year or two years, and it will get us over this intermediate hump.”
Alexander, a Republican from Tennessee, and Murray, a Democrat from Washington, have worked for weeks on the plan, but their work became even more urgent last Thursday after Trump announced abruptly that he would cease making cost-sharing reduction subsidy payments. Now, however, the real work begins in convincing members of their respective parties to back any deal they have reached together.
Democrats were briefed on the deal during lunch Tuesday.