The Senate is again trying to tackle the politics of health care. Rather than going for sweeping changes, lawmakers are acting more like handymen this time, looking for tweaks and fixes that will make the system that’s already in place work better.
Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., is leading the effort to stabilize the Affordable Care Act’s insurance markets for next year. He’s trying to get a bipartisan bill together in the next 10 days, he said Thursday. He’s working against the clock; insurance companies have only until Sept. 27 to commit to selling policies on the ACA exchanges, and to set their final prices for health plans.
It’s a big ask. And Alexander, who is chairman of the Senate’s Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, was frank about what needed to happen.
“To get a Republican president and a Republican House and a Republican Senate just to vote for more money won’t happen in the next two or three weeks, unless there’s some restructuring,” he told a group of five governors who testified before his committee Thursday.
It was the second of four hearings the committee is holding while developing a new health bill.
All of the governors and most of the senators in the room agreed that the top priority was for Congress to appropriate money for what are called cost-sharing reductions. These reimburse insurance companies for discounts they’re required by law to give low-income customers.