Senators Push Back On Attacks On Obamacare Bills

A supporter of two Obamacare stabilization bills cited a new analysis showing premiums will decrease due to the legislation amid attacks from outside groups that call the bills “bailouts.”

Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., pointed Monday to a new analysis from the consulting firm Oliver Wyman showing the two bills lower premiums by more than 40 percent on the individual market, which is used by people that don’t have insurance through the government or a job and includes Obamacare’s insurance exchanges. Alexander also bristled at the notion the two bills are a “bailout” for insurers, an attack leveled by outside conservative groups Monday.

“I can assure you that President Trump is not about to support anything that is a bailout for insurance companies, nor will I, nor will Sen. Murray,” Alexander said, referring to Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., who is a co-sponsor with him on one of the bills.

Alexander and Murray co-sponsored a bill that funds cost-sharing reduction payments for two years in exchange for giving states more latitude to waive Obamacare regulations. Sens. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., and Susan Collins, R-Maine, sponsored another bill that gives states $10 billion over two years to create reinsurance programs that cover the highest claims from Obamacare insurers, who in return lower premiums overall.

The senators behind the bills have sought to put them into a two-year spending bill called an “omnibus,” which congressional negotiators are hammering out now.

“My hope is it will be added to the omnibus,” Alexander said. “That will be up to the Democratic and Republican leaders. I hope they will be.”

But a collection of outside conservative groups including Heritage Action, Club for Growth, and FreedomWorks argued in a letter to Congress Monday for not including the bills in the omnibus.

The groups called the bills taxpayer-funded “bailouts” of Obamacare and sought to downplay whether they will have any impact on federal spending.

Alexander shot back when asked about the “bailout” moniker by pointing to the recent analysis from Oliver Wyman.

The analysis looked at funding cost-sharing payments and providing $10 billion annually for reinsurance in 2019, 2020, and 2021. It found that both bills combined would result in a 40 percent decrease in premiums on the individual market, coupled with 3.2 million more people getting coverage in the market.

The consulting firm used a simulation model to look at the likely effect of the impact of the two bills. It also took into account the additional flexibility for states to relax Obamacare insurer regulations.

“In those states that are not able to obtain a … waiver and take advantage of pass-through savings for 2019, we estimate that premium would decline by more than 20 percent across all metal levels,” the analysis said. “Those estimates include an average 10 percent reduction due to the funding of CSRs, with the remaining reduction coming from the reinsurance program.”

Trump threw his support behind the bills last year in an effort to get Collins on board for tax reform. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., agreed to bring up both bills for a vote in the Senate.

While the bills have enough support to get through the Senate, there is rampant opposition among House Republicans who believe the bills are propping up a law they say is collapsing.

Alexander said on Monday the bills are needed as a bridge to whatever Congress comes up with on Obamacare.

“What we are trying to do is identify a temporary solution, in the president’s word, to keep people from being hurt over the next few years while Congress decides what to do permanently,” he said.

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