Eight governors from across the US on Thursday unveiled a plan to fix the Affordable Care Act.
A letter from two Republican governors — John Kasich of Ohio and Brian Sandoval of Nevada — five Democrats, and one independent urged congressional leaders to do everything in their power to help the people currently on the law’s individual insurance exchanges and to stabilise the program going forward.
“As Congress considers reforms to strengthen our nation’s health insurance system, we ask you to take immediate steps to make coverage more stable and affordable,” the letter said. “The current state of our individual market is unsustainable and we can all agree this is a problem that needs to be fixed.”
The letter called on the Trump administration to continue to try to make the law known as Obamacare work by increasing outreach to get people to sign up for plans.
The letter also addressed a few concrete policy steps the governors say should be taken. Here’s a quick rundown:
- Fund cost-sharing reduction payments: CSR payments help to offset the cost to insurers for offering poorer Americans plans with low out-of-pocket costs. These payments have been the subject of a lawsuit under the Obama administration. Trump has repeatedly threatened to cut them off. The letter urged them to be funded for two years.
- Create a fund to help states address rising premiums: The governors said they want Congress to create a $US15 billion a year stability fund that would allow states to create programs to bring down premiums for people in the exchange markets. They also suggested offsetting the move by cutting other spending.
- Exempt insurers from the federal health insurance tax for plans in underserved counties: The governors’ plan would exempt insurers from the federal tax on plans provided to people in counties where there is only one insurer. Such a move would help to encourage insurers to enter rural counties that may be in danger of going without coverage on the exchanges.
- Allow people in underserved counties to buy into government benefits: The plan would let people in counties with one insurer on the exchange buy into the Federal Employee Benefit Program. In essence, that would create a so-called public option for underserved counties.
- Recreate the federal reinsurance program: That program helped to stem losses by insurers and helped spur their participation in the exchanges. The program was phased out, but the plan would reinstate it.
The plan would also encourage open enrollment and institute other programs to allow states more flexibility in addressing the specific needs of their state.
The proposal comes after Republican attempts to repeal and replace Obamacare — which were roundly criticised by many governors of both parties — fell through at the end of July.
A bipartisan solution is scheduled to be discussed by the Senate Health, Education, Labour, and Pensions committee in September once Congress returns from its month-long recess.
Here’s a full list of signatories:
- John Kasich, R-Ohio
- John Hickenlooper, D-Colorado
- Brian Sandoval, R-Nevada
- Tom Wolf, D-Pennsylvania
- Bill Walker, I-Alaska
- Terry McAuliffe, D-Virginia
- John Bel Edwards, D-Louisiana
- Steve Bullock, D-Montana
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