Mitch McConnell and Barack Obama.REUTERS/Larry Downing
Senate Republicans may just save Obamacare — right before they tear it up.
According to a report from Jennifer Steinhauer and Robert Pear at the New York Times, Republicans are considering a measure that would help stabilize the Affordable Care Act’s individual insurance markets for the short-term during their drafting of a bill to repeal and replace the law.
As part of crafting their healthcare bill, the Times reported, Senate Republicans are considering funding the cost sharing reduction (CSR) payments that are vital to ensuring the stabilization of the individual insurance market.
The issue at hand is the legality of funding of the CSR payments. These funds help to bring down out of pocket costs for lower income Americans and make plans affordable.
The funds are currently dispersed via the executive branch, a move that has been challenged by the Republican-led House of Representatives. While the Obama administration lodged an appeal after a judge ruled that the CSR payments from the executive branch were illegal, there is an open question of whether the Trump administration will continue the appeal and fund the CSRs.
If these payments are not made, insurers have said they will need to drastically increase premiums in 2018 to compensate and health policy experts warned that it could cause the ACA exchanges to collapse.
In order to combat the possibility of dramatically higher prices or dropped coverage for millions of Americans, the Senate is discussing allocating these funds legally through a congressional appropriation. It is unclear whether this would happen as part of the larger healthcare-reform bill, or as some GOP senators have suggested, a separate bill that would likely move faster than the full-scale overhaul.
GOP Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio said that the Senate needed to make sure an insurance market collapse did not happen. “The administration has delayed a decision from month to month,” he told the Times. “We need to deal with it as soon as possible to provide some stability in the market.”
On May 22, the House and Trump administration said they were delaying a court update on whether or not the appeal will go ahead for another six months. Additionally, the Trump administration has only committed to funding the CSRs through the end of May.
This uncertainty has led a handful of insurers to announce that they are pulling out of the ACA exchanges for 2018 over the past two months, further clouding the outlook for the individual insurance markets next year.