All eyes are on Sens. Lamar AlexanderAndrew (Lamar) Lamar AlexanderChildren’s health-care bill faces new obstacles Overnight Health Care: Schumer calls for tying ObamaCare fix to children’s health insurance | Puerto Rico’s water woes worsen | Dems plead for nursing home residents’ right to sue Schumer calls for attaching ObamaCare fix to children’s health insurance MORE (R-Tenn.) and Patty MurrayPatricia (Patty) Lynn MurrayChildren’s health-care bill faces new obstacles Overnight Health Care: Schumer calls for tying ObamaCare fix to children’s health insurance | Puerto Rico’s water woes worsen | Dems plead for nursing home residents’ right to sue Schumer calls for attaching ObamaCare fix to children’s health insurance MORE (D-Wash.), the leaders of the Senate Health Committee who have been working to craft a bipartisan deal to stabilize the insurance markets.
Their efforts grew more urgent late Thursday night when President Trump announced he was halting key payments to insurers.
Before the Senate’s week-long recess, Alexander said he had agreed to fund the payments for two years, but there hasn’t been a bipartisan agreement on an overall package.
Known as cost-sharing reduction payments, these funds compensate insurers for discounting the out-of-pocket costs of some lower-income ObamaCare enrollees. The administration has been making the payments on a monthly basis. Meanwhile, insurers have been pleading for certainty that the payments will continue on a long-term basis.
At issue is the fact that insurers still have to offer these discounts. In their premiums, some insurers accounted for the fact the CSRs might not continue — but not all did. It remains to be seen if rates can be changed and also if insurers will exit the marketplaces.
“Many insurers anticipated that CSR payments might end and set their premiums accordingly,” Larry Levitt, a Kaiser Family Foundation senior vice president, wrote in an email. “Some insurers were less pessimistic, and some states did not let insurers assume that CSR payments would end and hike their premiums. So, the fallout over the next few weeks will vary from state by state.”
Open enrollment for people to sign up for plans on HealthCare.gov is looming, beginning Nov. 1.
But its also unclear if Alexander and Murray can reach a deal that could reach Trump’s desk. Democrats are pushing to restore the payments. But conservative lawmakers, including GOP leaders, oppose what they see as a subsidy to insurers.
The fight over Trump’s move, though, could drag on. Fifteen states are also suing to stop Trump from halting the payments.
ObamaCare isn’t the only big issue on the health care front.
Lawmakers are scrambling after funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), community health centers and a few other health programs expired at the end of September.
The Senate Finance Committee passed a bipartisan five-year extension of CHIP, but has yet to release how it will pay for the bill.
The House Energy and Commerce Committee passed a partisan bill to fund CHIP and community health centers. But Democrats slammed the legislation’s offsets, which would have cut funds to an ObamaCare public health fund and required older, wealthier Americans to pay higher Medicare premiums. Walden agreed Tuesday to delay a vote on the bill, so the parties could renegotiate the pay-fors.
However, that effort did not appear to have yielded any changes.
“It’s clear that House Republicans want to use reauthorization of children’s health insurance and Community Health Centers as a way to further undermine the Affordable Care Act and weaken Medicare,” the House Commerce Committee’s ranking member, Rep. Frank Pallone (D-N.J), said in a statement Friday afternoon.
Hearings & events
The Senate is back in session Monday after a weeklong recess. The House is out of session the coming week.
The Senate Health Committee will hold a hearing Tuesday at 10 a.m. in the Dirksen Senate Office Building, room 430, on the cost of prescription drugs.
The committee will also hold a hearing titled “Examining How Healthy Choices Can Improve Health Outcomes and Reduce Costs,” on Thursday at 10 a.m. in Dirksen room 430.
Axios is holding an event focused on health care Wednesday at 8 a.m. Senate Health Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), Bill CassidyWilliam (Bill) Morgan CassidyBen Shapiro: Who died and made Jimmy Kimmel Jesus? Dems look to turn ObamaCare tables on GOP in ’18 Congress misses deadline to reauthorize childrens’ health care program MORE (R-La.) and Tim KaineTimothy Michael KaineAuthorizing military force is necessary, but insufficient Week ahead: Crunch time for defense bill’s cyber reforms | Equifax under scrutiny Insurer Anthem to cover bare ObamaCare counties in Virginia MORE (D-Va.) will participate.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce will hold an event titled “A Path Forward on Health Reform: Advancing Priorities and Innovative Solutions Amid Uncertainty,” Wednesday at 1:30 p.m.
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