- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Senate Health Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander says legislative efforts to stabilize the Obamacare markets this year are dead and that it’s up to states and the Trump administration to provide relief from rising insurance rates.

In a new letter, Mr. Alexander thanks colleagues who backed his push to fund “cost-sharing” payments and billions in reinsurance money to slash premiums, while decrying Democrats who balked over language that said the funds couldn’t flow to plans that cover abortion.

“Given Democrats’ attitude, I know of nothing that Republicans and Democrats can agree on to stabilize the individual health market,” he wrote in a letter obtained by The Washington Times. “The last seven months show that Democrats are not willing to even make modest temporary changes with which they agree. So now efforts to help Americans paying skyrocketing premiums will turn to the Trump administration and the states. And our committee’s efforts will turn to other pressing health care issues,” such as the opioid epidemic.

Both parties are casting blame over rising Obamacare costs in a pivotal midterm electing year.

Insurers in Maryland and Virginia recently requested another round of double-digit rate hikes, citing a risk pool that is sick and costly and the GOP’s decision to zero out penalties tied to the “individual mandate” to get covered or else pay a tax.

Democrats say repeal of the mandate in the GOP tax bill poisoned the waters ahead of market-stabilization talks, and that GOP leaders only included pro-life language in the plan to appease conservatives who were hesitant to bolster Obamacare, anyway.

Mr. Alexander says Democrats should have been able to accept common, recurring abortion language known as Hyde restrictions, and seemed intent on pinning blame on the GOP for rate hike that will hit right before the November elections.

He said he is encouraged by President Trump’s push to open the door to “association plans” and short-term plans that don’t have to comply with Obamacare’s regulations, meaning healthier people will have a cheaper, if skimpier, option for coverage.

He also wants the Health and Human Services Department to assist states that devise ways to help people who earn too much to qualify for Obamacare subsidies, yet struggle to afford coverage.

“I will be encouraging governors and state insurance commissioners to do everything they can to help repair the damage caused by the Affordable Care Act,” Mr. Alexander wrote. “No one regrets Congress’ failure to reach an agreement on this more than I do. I ran for the U.S. Senate because I want to achieve bipartisan results on important issues and often I have done that, but I could not here.”


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