By Jason Taylor
A Senate chairman on Tuesday took a significant step toward working with Democrats on stabilizing a core facet of ObamaCare — the health care exchanges. Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), who helms the Senate Health Committee, announced he will hold bipartisan hearings during the first week of September on strengthening ObamaCare’s individual markets for 2018. The goal: to craft a bipartisan, short-term proposal by mid-September.
President Trump has suggested he’ll let ObamaCare implode, but in working with Democrats, Alexander is actively trying to prevent that from happening.
“We need to put out the fire in these collapsing markets wherever these markets are,” Alexander said at the beginning of a Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee hearing on nominations.
Time is of the essence.
Republicans and Democrats working together to make the ACA/Obamacare better made the most sense from the beginning. But the President’s priorities are to destroy anything that has President Obama’s name or stamp on it, which is petty, absurd and terrible for the country. Making the ACA work better for everyone will strengthen the economy and the Middle Class.
The committee plans to discuss the issue with insurance commissioners, patients, insurance companies, governors and healthcare experts. The committee’s staff will begin preparing for the hearings this week, Alexander said.
The panel’s top Democrat, Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), said she welcomed the bipartisan hearings and appreciated Alexander’s willingness to work with her on the issue. Alexander and Murray have previously crafted bipartisan deals, such as a rewrite of the No Child Left Behind Act last congressional session.
There are a few simple goals any bipartisan legislation to fix the ACA must try to achieve (at a minimum):
Lowering out-of-pocket expenses (premiums, deductibles, and copays) to amounts people can afford. Not taking insurance away from anyone who has it. Increasing the number of people covered. Not changing the list of essential health care items the ACA covers (no junk plans). Reducing drug costs. The simplest way to do all this and more is something like Medicare for all. That’s unlikely so Congress will have to put on their thinking caps. It will be a monumental achievement, but after the Republicans wasted 7 years trying to kill the ACA, it’s the least they can do.
I do believe that the country is headed toward single payer, and it is due to the chaos caused by President Trump that will speed up this process. Single payer would be a major economic boon to the Middle Class, and therefore the country. Because it is not making the wealthy wealthier that grows the economy, it’s making the Middle Class economically fit; that’s where the mid-size and small companies employ the majority of Americans and where the majority of consumers are.
Monies now used to fund Medicare, Medicaid and the state CHIP plans, along with the wealthy continuing to pay their fair share of taxes, would fund single payer. Cost savings would include eliminating insurance and billing companies and greatly reducing the cost of prescription drugs. The Middle Class and the poor, elderly and sick would not only be covered for their health care but the general health of Americans would improve and everyone would have more disposable income to fuel the economy.
“In my opinion,” Mr. Alexander said, “any solution that Congress passes for a 2018 stabilization package would need to be small, bipartisan and balanced. It should include funding for the cost-sharing reductions, but it also should include greater flexibility for states in approving health insurance policies.”
“It’s what the Democrats want,” Mr. Cruz said on Tuesday. “The Democrats are the party of the big insurance companies.”
Ted Cruz is, quite possibly, a bigger liar than Trump. The notion that Democrats are the defenders of the health insurance industry is one of the biggest whoppers ever told. One of the principal reasons we have the ACA instead of universal coverage is because the Republicans are determined to protect the very, very profitable health insurance industry — which would otherwise disappear if we had a single payer system. The Republicans need those campaign dollars to keep rolling in from the health insurance companies, dollars that became legal contributions thanks to the Citizens United decision brought to us by the right wing of the Supreme Court.
I couldn’t care less about motivations. If there is adequate bipartisan support for addressing destabilized markets, then that needs to happen now. Trump mustn’t continue to use withholding cost-share reimbursements as leverage to pass a GOP-only bill — if and when that happens. In the meantime, many will suffer if the status quo continues. I doubt Trump will veto a bipartisan bill to shore up the ACA. If he does veto it, I hope there will be enough votes to override it. People like Ted Cruz and Rand Paul might be willing to see markets destabilize and even contribute to the destabilization, but it appears more moderate voices are finally facing reality.
Amazing! A few Republican legislators have woken up to the fact that they need to work with Democrats to solve health care problems, and abandon their quest to kill the ACA and enrich the 1%. Will wonders never cease?
Now let’s see if Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan get the message.
But as I always advise… don’t hold your breath.