(Bloomberg) — More than half a dozen Republican and Democratic senators have discussed alternatives to the embattled GOP Better Care Reconciliation Act bill, even as Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said he plans a vote next week to muscle the Affordable Care Act change measure through the Senate.
Talks about a bipartisan fallback are based on the idea that the Affordable Care Act individual major medical insurance markets have problems and would need to be fixed if the health care bill dies. For Democrats, it would avert a gutting of a signature achievement that they admit needs improvement. For some GOP moderates, it would be a concrete act that would help their constituents amid a maelstrom of partisan bickering.
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The main ideas involve creating a reinsurance fund and authorizing cost-sharing payments for insurers so they don’t have to raise prices for covering a sicker pool of customers.
“We don’t agree with Obamacare, but recognize the fact that these markets are collapsing; insurance companies need it to provide the certainty of how they’re going to price the 2018 premiums,” said Sen. Ron Johnson, a Wisconsin Republican.
Congress should “bite the bullet and stabilize those markets,” Johnson said. There is substantial Republican support for that idea — the original McConnell health care bill included $50 billion in insurer funds to stabilize markets and reduce premiums.
Sen. Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican, said Tuesday he’ll release an outline of an alternative health care plan this week. He said he’s seeking support from governors and senators of both parties.
Vote Next Week
Graham insisted he hasn’t shut the door to McConnell’s GOP-only measure, but also made clear he’s not happy with it.
“I want to do the best I can, and I think the best we can is not on the table right now,” he said.
McConnell said Tuesday the Senate will move toward a health care vote next week, although he doesn’t plan to release a final bill until Thursday or appear to have the votes needed to pass it. He contemplated what failure would mean last week at home in Kentucky.
“If my side is unable to agree on an adequate replacement, then some kind of action with regard to the private health insurance market must occur,” McConnell said on July 6, the Associated Press reported. “No action is not an alternative,” he said. “We’ve got the insurance markets imploding all over the country.”
DC Health Link: Exchange Of Last Resort?
This week, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York had a response: Let’s do it.
In a letter Monday cosigned by his leadership team, the New York Democrat told McConnell he appreciated his remarks and called on him to focus on “immediately advancing policies to provide stability and certainty to the health insurance markets.”
In addition to more cost-sharing funds and reinsurance, the Democrats proposed allowing Americans with no options on their local exchange to buy insurance from DC Health Link, the District of Columbia public exchange, and phasing out the “subsidy cliff” so people earning just above 400% of the federal poverty level don’t lose the entire subsidy.
Sen. Susan Collins, a moderate Republican from Maine, said she’s spoken with Graham many times, and also has been talking with about a half-dozen Democrats who want a compromise with Republicans.