Can Congress Forge a Bipartisan Deal to Stabilize Individual Insurance Markets?
Health Care

Can Congress Forge a Bipartisan Deal to Stabilize Individual Insurance Markets?

Jonathan Bachman

After the GOP failed to repeal or replace Obamacare, lawmakers must now figure out how to further stabilize the individual insurance market and keep premiums from climbing — even as the Trump administration urges another attempt to scrap the ACA and slashes ad spending meant to promote enrollment through the law’s exchanges.

Sens. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Patty Murray (D-WA) have four bipartisan hearings planned this week and next for the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. They aim to pass a narrow, stopgap stabilization package this month, Politico reported, and they don’t have much time. Insurers have until September 27 to finalize their plans to participate in the exchanges.

Related: 5 Big Ideas to Stabilize the Obamacare Marketplaces

States have taken the lead in working to bring stability to specific markets and draw insurers to counties that had lacked coverage, taking some of the burden off Congress. At least six states are planning to set up their own reinsurance programs — read about Minnesota’s success here — reducing the likelihood that a similar nationwide plan favored by Democrats will be included in the measure drafted by Congress.

“That leaves one major unresolved issue: guaranteeing funding for Obamacare subsidies that lower out-of-pocket costs,” Politico’s Adam Cancryn reported Tuesday. “Without assurances the funding will continue, insurers and state regulators warn, the delicate Obamacare markets they’ve held together so far could promptly fall apart.” Without those federal payments to insurers, 2018 premiums could climb even higher, destabilizing the individual market and further squeezing Americans who don’t qualify for Obamacare subsidies.

"We've got a few weeks to come to consensus in this seven-year-old partisan stalemate, and if we don't break it, some people will be priced out and badly hurt," Alexander said.