By Evan Wilt
(WNS)–Amid the chaos of the Obamacare repeal-and-replace fight, two senators have been working on a bipartisan, short-term fix to give insurers stability.
Sens. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and Patty Murray (D-Wash.) lead the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions. Together they unveiled a draft plan on Oct. 17, the product of months of negotiations, to fund the Affordable Care Act’s cost-sharing subsidies in exchange for giving states increased flexibility on the law’s regulations.
President Donald Trump announced last week the federal government would stop making the roughly $8 billion per year subsidy payments, prompting Alexander and Murray to roll out details of their plan. Trump initially signaled support for the short-term fix but changed his mind Tuesday night.
“While I commend the bipartisan work done by Senators Alexander and Murray—and I do commend it—I continue to believe Congress must find a solution to the Obamacare mess instead of providing bailouts to insurance companies,” Trump said during a speech to the Heritage Foundation.
On Wednesday morning, Trump doubled down on that message in a tweet: “I am supportive of Lamar as a person & also of the process, but I can never support bailing out ins co’s who have made a fortune w/ O’Care.”
Alexander and Murray still want to move forward with the bill but now face an uphill battle to win the president’s support. Democrats want the bill to pass as quickly as possible to prop up Obamacare. But Alexander must convince Senate conservatives the bill doesn’t amount to giving up on the Obamacare repeal effort. He’ll also have to convince Trump the deal has merit—that it benefits Americans and not insurers.
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters on Wednesday that Trump does not support the Alexander-Murray plan in its current form. She called it a good step in the right direction but not a full solution to the problem.
The bill faces another major hurdle in the form of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., who has not signaled his support. McConnell has the final say on whether the bill will come to the floor for a vote. The bill also faces an uncertain future in the House, where Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., doesn’t like the plan and it would be impossible to pass without his OK.