WASHINGTON, D.C. (AP) – Sen. Lamar Alexander says President Donald Trump called him Wednesday morning “to be encouraging” of bipartisan efforts to come up with a plan to stabilize health insurance premiums after Trump stopped them.
Alexander, R-Tenn., and Sen. Patty Murray, D-Washington, announced Tuesday they had reached a deal to resume federal payments to health insurers that Trump had halted. Insurers had warned that unless the money was quickly restored, premiums would go up and prompt some carriers to abandon unprofitable markets.
Trump had spoken favorably of the deal Tuesday but then later in the day reversed course.
Alexander said Wednesday that Trump “wanted to be encouraging” in the Wednesday phone call and is still reviewing the bipartisan deal. Alexander said “I think he wants to reserve his options.”
Alexander predicts his deal will pass “in one form or another” by years end.
A bipartisan Senate deal to curb the growth of health insurance premiums is reeling after President Donald Trump reversed course and opposed the agreement and top congressional Republicans and conservatives gave it a frosty reception.
Sens. Lamar Alexander, a Tennessee Republican, and Patty Murray, a Democrat from Washington state, announced their accord Tuesday after weeks of negotiations and five days after Trump said he was halting federal subsidies to insurers.
Under the lawmakers’ agreement, the payments would continue for two years while states were given more leeway to let insurers sidestep some coverage requirements imposed by President Barack Obama’s health care law.
The following is a statement (on Tuesday) from Senator Lamar Alexander:
Senate health committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) announced he and Sen. Patty Murray (R-Wash.) have reached a short-term deal to offer bipartisan legislation to stabilize the individual health insurance market and begin to lower the costs of premiums, so all Americans have access to health insurance.
“Our legislation is based on the four bipartisan hearings and other meetings that our committee held last month and engaged nearly 60 senators,” Alexander said. “According to witnesses at our hearings and according to the Congressional Budget Office, without these cost-sharing reduction payments, premiums will rise, the debt will increase by nearly $194 billion over ten years, and up to 16 million Americans may find themselves living in counties where no company sells insurance in the individual market.”
Alexander continued: “Witnesses also testified that one way to lower costs for consumers is to give states more flexibility than the Affordable Care Act now allows to design health insurance plans give consumers more choices. We have purposely limited our proposal to these two things — first, two years of temporary cost-sharing payments, and, second, amendments that would give states meaningful flexibility in using section 1332 innovation waiver that is already a part of the Affordable Care Act.”
“Only about six percent of Americans get their insurance in the individual market. It’s about 18 million people, but every single one of them finds their health insurance important, and every single one of them is terrified by the skyrocketing premiums and possibility that they may not able to buy insurance at all if we don’t act. The best course is to take this limited bipartisan first step that to avoid the chaos that could occur during 2018 and 2019 if premiums continue to skyrocket and millions of Americans find themselves without a way to purchase health insurance.”
“Imagine yourself, a 45-year-old songwriter in Tennessee who loses her job, has three kids, and goes out into the individual market and finds out she can’t buy health insurance because no company is offering it. If we do not act, this is the kind of consequence we are talking about.”
“Senator Murray and I hope that we can present this legislation to Senator McConnell and Senator Schumer, with the support of a significant number of senators. We hope that it will pass, the House of Representatives will agree to it, and the president will sign it. I have had encouraging discussions with President Trump, who called me on two different occasions encouraging me to work with Senator Murray to come to a bipartisan agreement. I’m grateful to him for that encouragement and I’m grateful to her.”