Alexander-Murray Bill Attempts to Stabilize Market and Lower Premiums

Trump commends bipartisan work but doesn't support providing bailouts to insurance companies

Sens. Lamar Alexander and Patty Murray / Getty Images
October 18, 2017

Sens. Lamar Alexander (R., Tenn.) and Patty Murray (D., Wash.) have introduced legislation that attempts to stabilize the insurance market and lower the cost of premiums so Americans have more access to care.

The measure would continue funding Obamacare's cost-sharing reduction payments for two years. The payments were considered unconstitutional by two House committees, which said they were made without an appropriation from Congress. The measure would also give states more flexibility through Obamacare's 1332 innovation waiver.

"According to witnesses at our hearings and according to the Congressional Budget Office, without these cost-sharing reduction payments, premiums will rise, the debt will increase by $194 billion over 10 years, and up to 16 million Americans may find themselves living in countries where no company sells insurance in the individual market," Alexander said. "The best course is to take this limited bipartisan first step to avoid the chaos that would occur during 2018 and 2019 if premiums continue to skyrocket and millions of Americans find themselves without a way to purchase health insurance."

Last week, the Trump administration announced the cost-sharing reduction payments would end as Trump has previously called them a "bailout."

"The Democrats ObamaCare is imploding," Trump tweeted last week. "Massive subsidy payments to their pet insurance companies has stopped. Dems should call me to fix!"

In regards to the proposed legislation, Trump said Tuesday night during a speech at the Heritage Foundation that he commended the bipartisanship but did not support any bailouts for insurance companies.

"I'm pleased the Democrats have finally responded to my call for them to take responsibility for their Obamacare disaster and work with Republicans to provide much-needed relief to the American people," the president said. "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 was even clearer about his lack of support for the plan this morning: "I am supportive of Lamar as a person and also of the process, but I can never support bailing out ins co's who have made a fortune w/ O'Care," he tweeted.

Nathan Nascimento, vice president of policy at Freedom Partners, says that instead of continuing the cost-sharing reduction payments, lawmakers should continue their focus on repealing Obamacare.

"Continuing to funnel billions of taxpayer dollars to insurers without delivering real relief is an insult to the millions of Americans suffering from Obamacare’s collapse," said Nascimento. "Lawmakers should focus on keeping their promise to repeal Obamacare, and we agree with the White House that any deal that extends cost-sharing reduction subsidies and props up the law in the interim should start with eliminating the individual and employer mandates."

"Absent solutions that truly ease the law’s burden, Congress shouldn’t send another dime of hardworking taxpayer money to special interests who are enjoying record profits," he said.