March 29, 2023

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Politics: Key Republicans are coming out against the new Obamacare fix, and it looks like ‘the effort is dead’

  • Two senators from either side of the political aisle released a bipartisan deal to shore up the Obamacare markets Tuesday.
  • Key Republicans, including President Donald Trump and House Speaker Paul Ryan, have already come out against some or all of the package.
  • It could seriously damage the chances of getting the bill passed.

With the Republican attempts to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act on ice for now, two senators from either side of the aisle are trying to shore up the law’s insurance exchanges in the meantime. Resistance from leading Republicans, however, could sink the attempt.

The bill from GOP Sen. Lamar Alexander and Democratic Sen. Patty Murray — the leaders of the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee — would help pump some funding back into the exchanges to ensure costs for consumers stay low while also allowing states more flexibility to try their own fixes for exchanges.

Here’s a rundown of some major pushback the package received so far:

  • President Donald Trump: Trump specifically took issue with the inclusion of cost-sharing reduction (CSR) payments, which he calls “bailouts” for insurers. The Alexander-Murray deal would fund these payments, which offset insurer losses incurred by providing plans with low out-of-pocket costs for poorer Americans. Trump said he did support Alexander’s work more broadly, however.
  • House Speaker Paul Ryan: Ryan previously said of a stabilization package, before this version was finalized, that he would not bring such a bill to the House floor. A spokesperson reiterated that Wednesday. “The speaker does not see anything that changes his view that the Senate should keep its focus on repeal and replace of Obamacare,” Ryan’s office said.
  • Sen. Orrin Hatch, chair of the Finance Committee: “It would last two years and spend a whopping amount of money and not solve the problem,” Hatch told reporters Wednesday.
  • Republican Study Committee chair Mark Walker: The head of the roughly 150-member group in the House also came out against the package on Tuesday. “The GOP should focus on repealing & replacing Obamacare, not trying to save it,” Walker said via Twitter. “This bailout is unacceptable.”
  • Conservative action groups: FreedomWorks, Heritage Action, and Club for Growth all disavowed the package, painting it as a betrayal of the Republican promise to repeal and replace Obamacare.

Republican Sen. John Kennedy said Trump’s reversal on the bill likely means the push is dead for now.

I think that probably kills the effort,” Kennedy told Fox Business Network. “Senator Alexander and Senator Murray have worked very hard. Not sure what all was in their proposal. I understand the money we have to pay. I want to know what the American tax payer’s getting for it. But I think if President Trump has come out against it it’s all an academic question now. My guess is the effort is dead.”

Sen. John Thune, the third-highest ranking Republican in the Senate, told reporters that the bill is “stalled out.”

Some Republicans have supported the bill, however. Sen. Bob Corker, who like Alexander is from Tennessee, said he would cosponsor the bill. And Sens. John McCain and Susan Collins, both Republican holdouts from previous attempts by the GOP to repeal and replace Obamacare, also said they supported the push on Tuesday.

According to Axios’ Jonathan Swan, more cosponsors for the bill will be announced soon.

The biggest question, however, is whether Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell would bring the bill to the floor for consideration at all.

While there could be some push for the bill over the next few weeks, Rick Weissenstein of Cowen Washington Research Group said in a note to clients that the GOP resistance could put the effort on ice until the year-end negotiation over government funding.

“Statements this morning by President Trump and House Speaker Paul Ryan critical of the deal reached between Sens. Lamar Alexander and Patty Murray should not be taken as a death knell for the bill. It was always unlikely that the measure would move on its own,” Weissenstein said.

He added: “The more likely scenario is that Alexander-Murray gets wrapped up in what is likely to be a very large year-end measure.”

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