- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 28, 2017

Governors heaped pressure on Congress Thursday to snap out of its food fight over Obamacare and take bipartisan steps to fund health insurance for children and stabilize the individual market for nearly 20 million consumers nationwide.

President Trump is pivoting to tax reform after the collapse of GOP efforts to replace the 2010 Affordable Care Act with a system of block grants, saying he will get another bite at the apple next year.

Yet the National Governors Association said both parties need to stamp out a series of fires now, starting with reauthorization of the Children’s Health Insurance Program ahead of a Saturday deadline. The program is jointly funded by the federal government and states, and covers children whose families earn too much for Medicaid but may struggle to afford insurance.

Though states won’t run about of money immediately, the uncertainty is rattling states.

“Very soon, states will have to send notices to families informing them their children may not be covered in the near future because of insufficient federal funds,” the governors said in a letter to Congress.

Leaders of the Senate Finance Committee struck a deal this month to reauthorize the program. Aides said the GOP repeal push known as “Graham-Cassidy” put things on hold for a while, though now staff is pivoting back to CHIP.

The governors also pleaded with federal lawmakers to strike a deal that shores up Obamacare’s ailing marketplace, as insurers increase premiums to cope with an unhealthy risk pool and shifting signals from the Trump administration.

Mr. Trump has refused to guarantee cost-sharing payments that reimburse insurers for picking up low-income customers’ costs on the program’s insurance exchanges. Some companies requested rate hikes that were 20 percent higher than usual because of the uncertainty.

Governors said Senate Health Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander and Sen. Patty Murray, Washington Democrat, should strike a deal that funds the cost-sharing payments, streamlines a waiver system that gives states more control of their markets and sets up a federal-state “reinsurance” program to subsidize particularly high-cost consumers, so others aren’t forced to pay more.

Governors said the parties can only make that deal by working across the aisle.

Congress must not wait any longer to renew CHIP and act to stabilize the nation’s health insurance markets,” they wrote. “In this time of uncertainty and an ever-ticking clock, there is only one certain path to resolving these crucial issues: bipartisanship.”


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