(CNN) — There’s not a lot that Republicans and Democrats agree on when it comes to Obamacare. But a bipartisan panel of senators found some consensus Wednesday on how to stabilize the individual market in the near term.
Lawmakers from both sides of the aisle asked a panel of insurance commissioners — who hailed from states with both Democratic and Republican governors — what it would take to shore up Obamacare. The answer: Congress should fund a key set of Obamacare subsidies, make it easier for states to waive some of the law’s regulations and help insurers cover high-cost patients.
The commissioners appeared before the Senate Health Committee, kicking off a series of four bipartisan hearings on stabilizing the health reform law. Tennessee Senator Lamar Alexander, who chairs the committee, and Washington Senator Patty Murray, the ranking Democrat, arranged the panels after GOP efforts to repeal and replace Obamacare stalled in late July.
Attacks on the Affordable Care Act by President Trump and Republican lawmakers have made many insurers hesitant to continue offering policies on the exchanges in 2018. Many have downsized their participation or pulled out completely. Among those that remain, many have asked for steep rate hikes to shield themselves from the uncertainty in Washington D.C.
Alexander and Murray are looking to soften the blow on the 18 million Americans who buy coverage in the individual market, about half of whom don’t qualify for any help from the federal government. They will bear the brunt of the premium hikes.
“If Congress acts quickly, we can limit increases in premiums in 2018, continue support for co-pays and deductibles for many low-income families, make certain that health insurance is available in every market and lay the groundwork for future premium decreases,” Alexander said.
But lawmakers don’t have a lot of time left to make changes. Insurers must sign contracts — locking them into participating in Obamacare next year — by Sept. 27.
The top priority, state commissioners emphasized, is funding the cost-sharing reduction subsidies, which reduce deductibles and co-pays for lower-income enrollees.
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