- Republican Sens. Lamar Alexander and Susan Collins are delaying their effort to pass two bills aimed at stabilizing Affordable Care Act insurance markets.
- The senators are aiming to pass the bills as part of an omnibus spending bill in January instead.
- Collins predicated her support for the GOP tax bill in part on a promise of GOP support for these measures.
Republican Sens. Lamar Alexander and Susan Collins are delaying their effort to pass two bills aimed at stabilizing Obamacare insurance markets, they announced on Wednesday.
The senators originally promised to include the measures in a year-end spending bill, but because Congress is only working to pass a short-term extension of federal government funding this week, Collins and Alexander say they will include the bills in an omnibus bill in January.
“It looks like the Christmas present of lower health insurance premiums will now have to be a Valentine’s Day present,” Alexander said in a statement. “It is hard to add our bills to a year-end package that does not yet exist.”
Collins, who predicated her support for the GOP tax bill in part on a promise of GOP support for these bipartisan measures, said on Wednesday that Republican leadership has assured her that the party will vote for the bills in the new year. The GOP tax bill, which the president is set to sign on Wednesday, eliminates the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate, which will grow the ranks of uninsured Americans by 13 million.
“This afternoon Speaker Paul Ryan called me and said that the House remains committed to passing legislation to provide for high-risk pools and other reinsurance mechanisms similar to the bipartisan legislation I have introduced,” Collins wrote in statement.
Collins, a moderate who voted against the GOP’s efforts to repeal and replace Obamacare earlier this year, says the bills will offset the impact of the loss of the individual mandate, but experts largely disagree, arguing that the elimination of the mandate will spike health costs and reduce choice in plans.
Their moves comes after Collins told reporters on Tuesday that she had confirmed with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell that he would support the two insurance bills as well as a measure waiving an automatic cut in Medicare that the tax bill could trigger.
Collins and Alexander have lobbied President Donald Trump for months to support provisions that would help stabilise the volatile Obamacare insurance markets. But most Republican lawmakers have remained adamantly opposed to the proposals, which they see as propping up the law.
Nevertheless, the senators say they remain confident that bipartisan versions of the proposals will pass in the new year.
“There is every reason to believe that these important provisions can and will be delivered as part of a bipartisan agreement,” the statement read. “And Majority Leader McConnell has told us that he will uphold his commitment to schedule and support the legislation.”
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