The healthcare debate has been complicated and heated for years. Since the passage of the Affordable Care Act in 2010, the topic has become incredibly partisan. Republicans call for the repeal and replace of the ACA while Democrats call for measures to strengthen it. After Republicans took control of the House, Senate, and Presidency last year, the debate over healthcare reemerged. Despite several failed attempts to pass healthcare legislation, two Senators have persisted. Senators Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and Patty Murray (D-Wash.) have announced a bill that they hope will receive support from members of both parties. As this legislation makes its way through Congress, it may be helpful to understand the bipartisan healthcare bill.
What You Need to Know to Understand the Bipartisan Healthcare Bill
Why Democrats Like It
With President Trump’s executive order to discontinue cost-sharing subsidies, insurance premiums will rise by as much as 20% next year according to an analysis by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO). To put this in context, insurance premiums rose by approximately 3% last year. Cost-sharing subsidies decrease the out of pocket costs for individuals who earn between 100-250% of the federal poverty line who enroll in health insurance through federal or state marketplaces. While the recent executive order cancels federal funding for these subsidies, current law requires that insurance providers continue to offer these discounts. This means that insurers will have to raise the premiums for their other clients in order to cover their expenses. The Alexander-Murray bill provides federal funding for cost-sharing subsidies in 2018 and 2019. By solidifying this funding, the bill ensures that insurers will not have to increase the premiums of their other clients.
Why Republicans Like It
Although Republicans also do not want premiums to increase, they are particularly supportive of this legislation for another reason. The ACA stipulates several regulations for insurers that some people believe are too limiting. While States can currently apply for waivers exempting them from some individual market coverage parameters, the process is not easy. This bipartisan bill amends the waiver rules in section 1332 of the Affordable Care Act providing greater flexibility for states. More specifically, the bill reduces the waiting period associated with a waiver application from 180 to 90 days and allows States to be automatically approved when submitting an application identical to one that has already been approved. Ultimately, this bill shifts some degree of authority from the federal government back to the states.
Will It Pass?
This remains unclear. Although Senators on both sides of the aisle have indicated support, the bill will need 60 yes votes. NPR reports that all Senate Democrats are expected to vote in support of the bill. However, the bill still has a long way to go before it becomes law. Assuming all Democrats vote “yes”, the bill will still need an additional 14 votes. So far, 12 GOP Senators and one Independent have indicated support for the Alexander-Murray bill. Given that a date for a vote has not yet been set, it is quite possible that the bill could secure the 60 votes needed. That said, the bill will face renewed obstacles in the House of Representatives where disdain for the ACA is prominent among the Republican majority. Regardless, ultimately President Trump will have to sign off on any legislation before it becomes law.
Moving forward, it will be interesting to see what happens in both the Senate and the House. Whether the bill is passed in its current form or not, it is encouraging to see a bipartisan effort with regards to healthcare. Healthcare policy is one of the most confusing topics talked about in politics. That said, its implications affect people across the country. With this in mind, hopefully, this post has helped you understand the bipartisan healthcare bill!