Week Ahead: Congress Returns to Take Up Bipartisan Health Care Effort

Congress will kick off a busy month on health care when it returns from recess Tuesday.

The Senate’s Health Committee will hold two hearings in the coming week on a bipartisan healthcare bill, with testimony from governors and state insurance officials on Wednesday and Thursday, in addition to two more hearings the following week.

The goal is to pass a bill by the end of the month to stabilize the insurance markets for 2018.

It’s expected the bill would fund key ObamaCare insurer payments, known as cost-sharing reduction subsidies, and make some changes to the law’s 1332 waivers for states.

It will be a challenge, however, for Democrats and Republicans to find compromise after seven months of fighting each other over repeal efforts.

If Congress can pass a bill, it would mark the first major bipartisan effort the parties have made on ObamaCare since the law was passed seven years ago.

Lawmakers also face a critical health care deadline.

On Thursday, the Senate’s Finance Committee will hold a hearing on reauthorization of the popular Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP).

Funding for the program, which helps 9 million low-and middle income children get insurance, expires at the end of September.

Lawmakers need to hammer out a few details: the duration of the reauthorization, whether any measures will be attached and whether to continue enhanced federal matching funds that were first included in ObamaCare.

That could be a challenge under the timeframe, but those involved say there is a bipartisan commitment to getting the reauthorization passed.

On top of that, Sens. Bill Cassidy (R-La.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C) and Dean Heller (R-Nev.) are trying to gain traction on their ObamaCare repeal plan, which would block grant funding to states.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) has also said that he will introduce his single-payer healthcare bill once Congress returns from recess.

And over in the House, there could be some movement on a long-shot effort led by the conservative House Freedom Caucus to force a vote on ObamaCare repeal.

Events and hearings

The Senate Health Committee is holding a hearing Wednesday, titled “Stabilizing Premiums and Helping Individuals in the Individual Market for 2018: State Insurance Commissioners.” The hearing is at the Dirksen Senate Office Building, room 430, at 10 a.m.

The Health Committee meets again on Thursday at 9 a.m. in the same room for, “Stabilizing Premiums and Helping Individuals in the Individual Insurance Market for 2018: Governors.”

The Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee meets Wednesday at 10 a.m. for a hearing on “The History and Current Reality of the U.S. Health Care System.” The hearing will be in the Dirksen building, SD-342.

On Thursday, the Senate Finance Committee holds a hearing on reauthorizing the Children’s Health Insurance Program at 215 Dirksen at 10 a.m.

On Friday, Govs. John Hickenlooper (D-Colo.) and John Kasich (R-Ohio) will share their proposal to stabilize the health insurance market. They will speak at the American Enterprise Institute at 9:15 a.m.

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