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Some Senate Republicans Open to ACA Subsidy Deal

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Senate Republicans are expressing a willingness to consider a bipartisan approach to strengthening the individual insurance market under the Affordable Care Act, even as President Donald Trump is deciding whether to end key market subsidy payments.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said on Saturday he’d be open to the attempt, which follows the collapse of Republican efforts to make major changes to the Affordable Care Act, according to the Associated Press. Republican Sen. Thom Tillis said he’d be obligated to consider it.

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“We have got a destabilized market where insurance rates are going to go up 20, 30, 40% next year,” Tillis of North Carolina said on ABC’s “This Week” on Sunday. “Anything that we can do to prevent that and the damage that that will have on people who need health care I think is something I have to look at.”

The Senate health committee will begin bipartisan hearings in early September on stabilizing and strengthening the Affordable Care Act’s health insurance exchange system, Republican Chairman Lamar Alexander of Tennessee and top Democrat Patty Murray of Washington said in a joint statement on Aug. 1.

While saying he was open to a bipartisan plan for having the federal government continue to make the Affordable Care Act cost-sharing reduction subsidy payments, McConnell also said on Saturday there was “still a chance” to address an Affordable Care Act change bill — but that it was quickly becoming unlikely, according to the AP.

The cost-sharing reduction subsidy program helps low-income Affordable Care Act exchange plan enrollees pay their deductibles, co-payments and coinsurance amounts.

Affordable Care Act First

Trump has also tweeted to his 35.2 million followers that senators, who are away from Washington for their summer recess, shouldn’t vote on anything else until they’ve completed the effort to revamp the Affordable Care Act.

HHS Secretary Tom Price (Photo: Diego M. Radzinschi/ALM)

HHS Secretary Tom Price (Photo: Diego M. Radzinschi/ALM)

Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price said July 30 that “no decision’s been made” on whether to continue funding for the cost-sharing reduction program subsidies, but that the administration’s job is “to follow the law of the land.”

Trump has repeatedly suggested ending the cost-sharing reduction subsidy payments as a bargaining tactic to bring Democrats to the negotiating table.

The next round of payments is due on Aug. 21.

“The cost-sharing reductions over time need to be eliminated,” Tillis said. “But we can’t just all of the sudden pull the rug out from underneath an industry that has had this in place for about seven years.”

Need Bipartisanship

Appearing together on CBS’s “Face the Nation” on Sunday Republican Gov. John Kasich of Ohio and Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper of Colorado said both parties should work to find a solution.

“Republicans are going to have to admit that there is a group of people out there who will need help,” Kasich said.

“I think we’ll be surprised at the number of senators that are willing to kind of step back and say, ‘All right. Let’s roll up our sleeves, and work on a bipartisan basis, and see how far we can go,”’ Hickenlooper said.

Republican Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin said, “We do need to stabilize those markets,” but he urged his colleagues to move on to other priorities.

“I really do think we probably ought to turn our attention to debt ceiling and funding the government and tax cuts until we can really get all the parties together,” Johnson said on CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday.

—With assistance from Mark Niquette and Patricia Laya

— Check out Republicans Shell-Shocked by Health Defeat Split on Next Step on ThinkAdvisor.