- The Washington Times - Monday, March 12, 2018

Conservative pressure groups fired a warning shot Monday at members of Congress eyeing measures that would free up federal funding to stabilize Obamacare’s wobbly markets.

Heritage Action and more than a dozen other organizations said attempts to subsidize extra-pricy customers with federal tax dollars or restore “cost-sharing” payments that President Trump canceled would prop up a failing law, without injecting the type of free-market reforms that Republicans promised when they won the White House and Congress in 2016.

“These proposals are costly, likely to become permanent, and unnecessary. Worst of all, bailout payments keep the failed Obamacare infrastructure in place and do nothing to address the real reasons premiums and deductibles are rising–the law’s regulations, mandates, and subsidy structure,” the conservative groups wrote Monday.

Republican leaders are figuring out whether to include the provisions in a must-pass omnibus spending bill before a March 23 deadline.

The effort’s been upended by a side debate over abortion — conservatives say none of the funding should subsidize plans that cover the procedure, though Democrats are pushing back at pro-life demands.

Democrats’ votes might be needed to push the measures across the finish line, if many conservatives balk at bolstering Obamacare or the underlying spending package.

Insurers are set to request double-digit price hikes on the individual market, which includes Obamacare’s exchanges, in most states for 2019.

Companies cite a lack of healthy customers in the program and the GOP’s repeal of the “individual mandate” — the 2010 program main prod for goading customers in.

Moderate Republicans and party leaders worry they’ll face public backlash for rising premiums, since the GOP controls every lever of government.

Senate Health Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander and Sen. Susan Collins, Maine Republican, have partnered with Democrats on bills that would reel in rate hikes by resuming reimbursements for insurers who pick up low-income customers costs on the Obamacare exchanges and freeing up billions for a “reinsurance” program that blunts the cost of customers with big claims, so others don’t have to pay more.

They say the package will also save taxpayer money over time, because federal subsidies must rise with premiums under Obamacare’s framework.

Conservative groups urged lawmakers to resist those arguments, saying federal “bailouts” will be hard to reverse and that states can pursue reinsurance programs on their own, if necessary.

The groups, including ones back by the influential Koch brothers, want the GOP to revive repeal-and-replace efforts instead of patching up President Obama’s signature domestic achievement.

“Americans deserve relief from Obamacare’s damage and rising premiums through real reform, not ill-conceived policies like bailouts that simply paper over the underlying causes,” the groups wrote.

“Lawmakers should fulfill their longstanding promise of repealing and replacing Obamacare, not setting the dangerous precedent of bailing it out.”

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