Senate Health Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander urged the Trump administration to explore ways to make waivers baked into Obamacare a “more powerful tool” for states looking to slash premiums.
Mr. Alexander, Tennessee Republican, said Thursday his bipartisan push to stabilize the Obamacare markets might have fallen apart this year, but the Health and Human Services Department should find ways to forge ahead with parts of the deal that would empower states.
The package would have let states to seek changes to the 2010 law more quickly or submit “copycat” waiver to copy ideas that won approval in other states. He said HHS should solicit ideas from governors and state insurance commissioners and encourage states to apply for wiggle room under the 2010 health law.
“I am turning to you to help Americans harmed by Obamacare by putting states back in charge of health insurance through the State Innovation Waivers,” Mr. Alexander wrote to HHS Secretary Alex Azar and Seema Verma, administrator at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.
States like Alaska have used the waiver system to set up a “reinsurance” program that subsidizes pricey customers, so others can pay less, while Hawaii used the program to eliminate a small-business aspect of Obamacare that overlapped with state law.
Mr. Alexander is looking for administrative solutions after Democrats balked at a push to fund “cost-sharing” payments and billions in federal reinsurance money to slash premiums, citing pro-life language that was more stringent than Obamacare’s status quo.
“They refuse to change a single word of the law,” Mr. Alexander wrote Thursday.