As GOP Senators, Governors Pitch Plan to Save Obamacare, White House ‘Can’t Imagine’ Backing Bailout
By Fred Lucas, White House correspondent for The Daily Signal.
The White House says it “can’t imagine” supporting an Obamacare bailout, even as some Republican senators and governors are urging boosting federal subsidies to insurance companies to stabilize the endangered Obamacare exchanges.
The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee will be holding hearings starting next week on ways to maintain the health insurance markets and is expected to consider an increase in subsidies for insurers.
Meanwhile, a bipartisan group of governors, led by Ohio’s John Kasich, a Republican, and Colorado’s John Hickenlooper, a Democrat, unveiled a plan calling for Congress to create a temporary fund for states to reimburse insurance companies for major losses.
The Daily Signal asked White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders about the proposal. Her initial reaction was negative, but referred further questions to the Department of Health and Human Services.
“I can’t imagine that would be something we would want to be involved in,” Sanders told The Daily Signal.
The HHS media office did not respond to The Daily Signal’s inquiry by deadline.
The HHS did announce Thursday that it would chip away at one aspect of promoting Obamacare, by cutting funding for advertising outreach for enrollment 90 percent, from $100 million last year to $10 million this year.
Obamacare, formally known as the Affordable Care Act, included three potential bailout provisions for insurers. One of them was the cost-sharing reduction subsidies, which use taxpayer dollars to subsidize deductibles and copayments for plans purchased by households with incomes of less than 250 percent of the federal poverty level.
Since the legislative language of the Obamacare law didn’t describe how to fund it, the House of Representatives sued the Obama administration for paying nearly $14 billion through the program. The House won in U.S. District Court, but the Obama administration appealed to the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. The Trump administration has not announced a determination on whether it would defend the case.
Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., chairman of the Senate HELP panel, reportedly wants to fund the cost-sharing reduction subsidies, which would be a focus of hearings set to take place over the next two weeks.
An Obamacare repeal-and-replace bill failed in the Senate by one vote in July, which prevented it from going to conference committee to be reconciled with a bill that passed the House.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., is reportedly open to a bipartisan compromise, but only if it includes reforms to the Obamacare law.
Insurance companies want to know now about how subsidies will proceed ahead of open enrollment for the Obamacare marketplace this fall, said Ed Haislmaier, senior research fellow in domestic policy studies at The Heritage Foundation.
“Cost-sharing subsidies don’t do anything to stabilize the market,” Haislmaier told The Daily Signal.
“Bailout” would be a more appropriate term for increased cost-sharing subsidies, if the increase isn’t paired with deregulation of the unsubsidized market, he said.
“The Kasich-Hickenlooper plan would just throw more money at it. That would clearly be a bailout,” Haislmaier said.
In July, President Donald Trump threatened to take away the exemption members of Congress and their staffs have from Obamacare.
“I think that’s something he is certainly still considering,” Sanders told The Daily Signal.
This piece originally appeared in The Daily Signal, click here.