Senate Republicans Consider “Two-Step” Obamacare Replacement

Republican senators working to craft their own bill to replace the Affordable Care Act are looking at possibly phasing out the requirement that Americans buy health insurance instead of ending it abruptly.

Sen. Lamar Alexander, who chairs the committee that oversees health care issues, said Monday a “two-step” process for ending the insurance mandate and other provisions is something that senators have been discussing.

“We may have to do some things in 2018-19 that Republicans wouldn’t normally do and Democrats wouldn’t normally do,” said Alexander, chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.

Speaking after an event in Oak Ridge, Tenn., with Energy Secretary Rick Perry, Alexander said there are several options available to senators as they try to figure out the best way to replace the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, without further disrupting insurance markets.

One might be to phase out the “individual mandate” — the requirement that Americans buy insurance — so that premiums don’t go up as fast, he said.

Another might be to continue for another two years the subsidies that 7 million low-income Americans receive to help them afford insurance, Alexander said.

But “there’s been no decisions made on that, and I can’t predict what Senate Republicans might do about it,” Alexander said.

The Senate is writing its own health care bill after the House’s 217-213 vote earlier this month to approve legislation that would unravel many of the Affordable Care Act’s popular consumer protections, do away with the mandate for individuals to maintain health insurance and end expanded Medicaid eligibility.

Alexander has said the Senate has not set a time frame for completing its own bill, but he expects the process to take weeks, not months.

“We’re working every day on it and should know in June what we’ll be able to do,” he said.

“The individual market is just simply not working, it’s collapsing,” Alexander said. “You can blame anybody you want to for it, but that’s a fact. And it’s our responsibility to straighten that out — and that’s my first responsibility.”

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