After a weekend of unhappy tweets from President Trump about the Senate’s inability to pass a health care bill, the work to stabilize our country’s health care system continues on Capitol Hill. Much of this week’s focus has centered on the need to stabilize the individual health market. The federal government owes billions of dollars to insurers that help support the cost subsidies in the marketplace. These subsidies make coverage in the private market affordable for millions of Americans. Earlier in the week, the president threatened that the federal government would not pay these subsidies; however, to date, it seems like the White House will spend time in August assessing the situation and determining their course of action.
In the meantime, Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pension (HELP) Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-Wash.) are committed to working together and have announced a series of hearings scheduled to take place once the Senate returns from its August recess. According to the announcement, the HELP hearings will seek to “stabilize and strengthen the individual health insurance market so that American will be able to buy insurance at affordable prices in the year 2018.”
Senators Bill Cassidy (R-La.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) continue to push forward their legislative proposal. Their proposal would give states more flexibility in the form of block grants, with little federal accountability. Although there is very little indication that this bill will gain the support of 50 Republicans in order to make it through the Senate under reconciliation rules, the senators shopped it around this week to Republican governors, conservative members of the U.S. House of Representatives, and the administration.
However, the U.S. House of Representatives’ Problem Solver Caucus, a bipartisan group of 43 members of the House, also issued a set of solutions for shoring up the individual market. Led by Representatives Josh Gottheimer (D-N.J.) and Tom Reed (R-N.Y.), their plan would continue cost-sharing subsidies for those earning under 250 percent of the federal poverty level; create a stability find for high-cost, high-need health consumers; amend the employer mandate so that it only applies to those organizations with more than 500 employees; repeal the medical device tax; and allow for the sale of private market coverage across state lines. To gain approval from this caucus, any policy proposal must receive 75 percent support from the entire caucus and 51 percent of Democrats and Republicans.
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