As GOP Nears Repeal, Senate Eyes Bipartisan Fix For Obamacare

Robert Donachie | Capitol Hill and Health Care Reporter

Sen. Patty Murray of Washington caved Monday evening to Senate Health Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander, providing the chairman with a key concession he was seeking for a bipartisan bill to shore up Obamacare state exchanges and bolster the individual insurance marketplace.

Alexander laid out a potential compromise for his colleagues across the aisle last week during a series of public Senate hearings: Republicans would put forth a bill to continue paying insurance companies Obamacare subsidy payments –cost-sharing reductions (CSRs) — that help cover the cost of deductibles for low-income consumers on the exchanges. In return, Alexander wanted Democrats to allow for the expansion of state waivers — commonly known as 1332 waivers — that allow states to innovate their implementation of Obamacare as long as they meet the basic ACA protections.

Murray agreed to a bill Monday that would include “significant state flexibility,” in the final proposal, according to Axios. Murray’s concession is important in that it may be enough to sway two Republican holdouts to support the bill — Sens. John McCain of Arizona and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska.

Murkowski and McCain are both seeking bipartisanship to solve the challenges the nation faces with health care. This Alexander-Murray bill is the most public and bipartisan attempt to address health care in 2017. Murkowski also sits on the committee with Alexander and has been an active participant during the hearing process.

McCain’s and Murkowski’s states stand to lose funding under the GOP’s Graham-Cassidy bill, and other than toeing the party line, they don’t stand to gain much from supporting the measure. Both senators are withholding their support for the repeal effort, much like the pair did during the summer.

Republicans can only stand to lose two members of their own party in the Senate. If three GOP senators vote against the bill, it is dead.

If Alexander and Murray can provide the senators with a bill that they can see as a net-win, Graham-Cassidy could fall short of the 50 vote threshold needed to pass the measure. The repeal bill is roughly two votes shy of the 50 mark as of Monday evening.

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