The conservative wing of the GOP may be open to helping stabilize insurance companies during a transition away from Obamacare, several key members of Congress said Wednesday.
Insurance companies have made clear that they will need to know whether the Republican-controlled Congress will make Obamacare payments to insurers while working on the ultimate repeal and replacement of the health-care law. Without the payments the Obama administration promised, insurers may not continue to offer products on the law’s insurance exchanges.
North Carolina Republican Rep. Mark Meadows, the leader of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, told reporters Wednesday that as long as a “long-term plan” is in place, he’d be open to temporarily authorizing reinsurance and cost-sharing reduction payments to insurance companies, according to Morning Consult.
“Those items, while they’re very significant on a year-over-year appropriations bill, [are] a minor component when you’re looking at a smoother transition,” Meadows said. “I’m probably a little bit more moderate on those issues as long as we really have a long-term plan of how we’re going to make sure that we re-establish the market.”
These particular payments caught the ire of Republican opponents. Congress has not yet approved appropriations for the payments. In 2016, a district court found that the Obama administration’s payments to insurers were unconstitutional, as Congress never appropriated funding for them; the lawsuit is on hold pending appeal until Feb. 21. (RELATED: House Republicans Prevail In Obamacare Subsidy Lawsuit)
Insurers participating in Obamacare exchanges have until April to finalize their offerings and premium prices for the health care marketplaces in 2018 and have said they need to know the status of the payments by March.
“I would be a more flexible and could swallow some short-term heartburn for longer-term fiscal responsibility,” Meadows concluded.
Meadows and fellow conservative Utah Sen. Mike Lee stipulated that the repeal of Obamacare would be a prerequisite for the short-term funding; Lee said the payments would only be authorized once Congress began a repeal of the Affordable Care Act through budget reconciliation, as is expected, according to Morning Consult.
The wing doesn’t want the payments included in a reconciliation bill that would also repeal Obamacare, however, preferring to address the subsidies separately.
Lee was sure to mention that after the GOP passed a broad repeal of Obamacare in the 2015 budget reconciliation bill, he remains “not supportive of any effort to ratchet it back down” during the negotiations on this year’s version of a repeal bill, according to Axios.
“If we’re serious about a repeal and replacement, then there’s more of an appetite to look at smoother transition that would allow for some of us to take maybe a more moderate stance,” Meadows said.
Other top Republicans have already remarked they may be open to making the payments. Tennessee Sen. Lamar Alexander said last week that the GOP may need to make the payments in the short-term in order to stabilize the markets during a transition away from Obamacare.
Meadows’ conservative bona fides as leader of the House Freedom Caucus suggest that the GOP may be able to unite around a transition plan during the repeal process. (RELATED: Ryan Clarifies Obamacare Replacement Timeline, Says Legislation Will Be Done This Year)
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