The on again, off again effort to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act (ACA) finally fizzled out yesterday when Republican leadership in the U.S. Senate declined to bring to a vote the Graham-Cassidy bill to repeal the ACA and replace it with block grants to states.
The decision reopens the door to bipartisan efforts spearheaded by the Senate’s Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions to draft legislation to stabilize health insurance markets for 2018. After four days of hearings in September, the committee seemed to be on a path to draft bipartisan legislation that would continue cost-sharing reduction (CSR) payments to insurance companies providing health insurance plans on government healthcare exchanges and provide greater flexibility to states in developing solutions to their healthcare challenges. This was expected to provide insurance companies the assurance they needed to proceed with providing lower cost plans with lower deductibles, co-pays and co-insurance costs, and increase plan offerings for individuals shopping for health insurance through government exchanges.
The decision last week by Republican leadership in the Senate to champion the Graham-Cassidy bill in a last-ditch effort to repeal and replace the ACA seemed to derail the committee’s bipartisan efforts. However, with Graham-Cassidy receiving significant opposition from a number of quarters and at least three Republican Senators saying they would not vote for the bill, Senate Leader Mitch McConnell announced yesterday he would not bring the bill to a vote.
That decision clears the way for the Senate committee to revitalize its efforts, according to a statement from Senate health committee chair Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) provided to The ACA Times:
“I will consult with Senator Murray and with other senators, both Republicans and Democrats, to see if senators can find consensus on a limited bipartisan plan that could be enacted into law to help lower premiums and make insurance available to the 18 million Americans in the individual market in 2018 and 2019.”
“I would have voted for the Graham-Cassidy proposal because it meant more money and more state decision-making for Tennessee, and would have helped control the federal debt. But Graham-Cassidy primarily would have affected 2020 and beyond. I’m still concerned about the next two years and Congress has an opportunity to slow down premium increases in 2018, begin to lower them in 2019, and do our best to make sure there are no counties where people have zero options to buy health insurance.”
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