Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Lawmakers Talk Compromise on Affordable Care Act Reform

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Lawmakers Talk Compromise on Affordable Care Act Reform

Article excerpt

WASHINGTON - They want flexibility, reinsurance programs, stable federal subsidies and a reversal of the Trump administration's drastic cuts in public outreach.

Those are the things five state insurance commissioners, including Pennsylvania's, asked lawmakers for Wednesday during the first of four hearings aimed at making small improvements to the Affordable Care Act that affect a small group of people who buy insurance in the individual market.

Sen. Lamar Alexander, chairman of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, is eyeing a chance of coalescing around a set of improvements after seven years of partisan battle over health care.

"To get a result, Democrats will have to agree to something: more flexibility for states that some may be reluctant to support. And Republicans will have to agree to something: additional funding . that some may be reluctant to support," said Mr. Alexander, R-Tenn. "That is called a compromise. . We ought to be able to make this small bipartisan step."

Lawmakers are on a tight time schedule. Insurance carriers need answers by Sept. 27, the deadline for finalizing 2018 rates.

Mr. Alexander wants his fellow Republicans to commit to cost-sharing subsidies that the president has threatened to abolish. The subsidies essentially are discounts that help low-income people pay for care.

For their part, Mr. Alexander wants Democrats to make it easier for states to get waivers for ACA requirements other than those affecting pre-existing conditions, benefit caps or coverage for young adults on their parents' plans.

The effort to compromise is a sharp strategic shift for Republicans, who until now had been steadfast in their efforts to replace the Affordable Care Act rather than fix it.

Sen. Patty Murray of Washington, the HELP Committee's ranking Democrat, urged compromise, too, although she also used her time at the microphone to accuse the president of trying to sabotage the Affordable Care Act in order to make way for his own plan. …

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