Senate health committee chairman Lamar Alexander disparaged Republican efforts to repeal and replace Obamacare and called for bipartisan cooperation during a speech on the Senate floor Thursday.
Alexander implored his colleagues to support a bipartisan health care reform bill that he introduced with co-sponsor Democratic Sen. Patty Murray of Washington, arguing the legislation represents a centrist compromise that will stabilize health care markets and prevent premiums from increasing further.
“We’ve had about 50 votes, maybe more, and we lost them all. And we made thousands of speeches and we lost them all,” Alexander said on the Senate floor.
“I would ask what’s conservative about unaffordable premiums?” he added, referencing the expected fallout from the elimination of cost sharing reduction (CSR) payments. “What’s conservative about creating chaos so millions can’t buy health insurance?”
Alexander cited the numerous failed attempts to repeal and replace Obamacare and offered his bill as the only realistic solution to a health care market in crisis.
The proposed legislation would extend CSR subsidies for two years, a measure proponents of the bill argue will prevent insurers from raising premiums in the absence of federal funds. In a nod to Republicans, the bill also empowers insurers to sell less comprehensive, cheaper plans across state lines.
President Donald Trump initially expressed support for the bill but seemed to modify his position in a Wednesday tweet, indicating he could not support the continuation of federal CSR payments to insurers.
I am supportive of Lamar as a person & also of the process, but I can never support bailing out ins co’s who have made a fortune w/ O’Care.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 18, 2017
Alexander pushed back on suggestions that he lacked Trump’s support Thursday during his floor speech.
“I want to thank President Trump for his encouragement. He’s the one who called me 10 days ago and called me again last Saturday and called me twice yesterday,” Alexander recounted.
He said Trump told him, “I think I can get block grants to replace Obamacare, but I don’t want people to suffer in the meantime.”
Alexander made the case that support for his bill is in the interest of all lawmakers regardless of political affiliation. He cited the grim assessment of the Congressional Budget Office as evidence the discontinuation of CSR payments, which Trump halted via executive order in early October, would negatively impact consumers.
“The Congressional Budget Office has told us that if we don’t do it, if we let them expire, premiums in 2018 will go up an average of 20 percent,” he said.
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