Senate panel to begin bipartisan hearings on stabilizing health insurance market

By Michael Collins, August 22, 2017

Washington – Senators looking for ways to stabilize the individual health insurance market will hear from governors and state health insurance commissioners at their first bipartisan hearings next month.

The hearings, set for Sept. 6-7, will focus on stabilizing premiums and helping people in the individual market in light of Congress’ failure to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare.

“Eighteen million Americans, including 350,000 Tennesseans – songwriters, farmers, and the self-employed – do not get their health insurance from the government or on the job, which means they must buy insurance in the individual market,” said Sen. Lamar Alexander, the Tennessee Republican who chairs the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.

“My goal by the end of September is to give them peace of mind that they will be able to buy insurance at a reasonable price for the year 2018,” Alexander said.

Washington Sen. Patty Murray, the committee’s top Democrat, said the path to making health care work better for patients and families “isn’t through partisanship or backroom deals.”

“It is through working across the aisle, transparency, and coming together to find common ground where we can,” she said.

The attempts at a bipartisan approach to fixing health care mark a change in strategy after the failure last month of Republican efforts to repeal and replace Obamacare. The GOP bill was pieced together behind closed doors by a small group of Republican senators, with no input from Democrats and no public hearings.

Alexander has said lawmakers must find a way to stabilize the individual insurance market because millions of Americans will be unable to buy insurance unless Congress acts.

At the hearings, the committee will hear from state insurance commissioners and governors because they are closest to the problem and can suggest steps that Congress can take to help make insurance available at affordable prices, Alexander said.

“Any solution that Congress passes for a 2018 stabilization package will have to be small, bipartisan and balanced,” he said.

It also should give states more flexibility in approving insurance policies and fund the cost-sharing reduction payments to help stabilize premiums for 2018, he said.

Murray said it’s important for the committee to hear from state leaders because they “understand full well the challenges facing health care today, and many have been outspoken about how the uncertainty caused by this administration has impacted the individual insurance market and therefore families’ premiums for 2018.”

https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2017/08/22/senate-panel-begin-bipartisan-hearings-stabilizing-health-insurance-market/589555001/

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