Mary Ellen McIntire

Advocates Push Passage of Health Deal as Open Enrollment Nears
CBO says it’s too late for lower premiums next year, but hopes for ’19 remain

Democrats concerned about the confusion surrounding individual health insurance are urging a vote on bipartisan legislation to stabilize the marketplaces as a sign-up period next week creeps closer.

Still, it appears increasingly likely that lawmakers won’t consider such a proposal until closer to the end of the year. And many experts say the bill’s impact for 2018 would be modest anyway.

Senators Reach Bipartisan Deal on Health Care
Alexander, Murray have an agreement on stabilizing insurance marketplaces

Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander said he has reached an agreement with Washington Sen. Patty Murray, the panel’s ranking Democrat, on a limited deal to stabilize the individual health insurance markets.

Alexander, a Tennessee Republican, briefed GOP senators on that deal during their weekly policy lunch Tuesday.

Trump to Stop Paying Obamacare Cost-Sharing Subsidies
Schumer and Pelosi: ‘American families will suffer just because President Trump wants them to’

The administration will stop reimbursing health insurers for the 2010 health care law’s controversial cost-sharing reduction payments, the White House said Thursday night.

“Based on guidance from the Department of Justice, the Department of Health and Human Services has concluded that there is no appropriation for cost-sharing reduction payments to insurance companies under Obamacare,” the White House Office of the Press Secretary said in a statement. “In light of this analysis, the Government cannot lawfully make the cost-sharing reduction payments.”

Cassidy Eyes Changes to Health Care Bill While Trying to Win Support
Senate GOP opted not to take a vote on measure last week

Louisiana Sen. Bill Cassidy said there will be changes to a proposal he wrote to overhaul the 2010 health law as he and fellow Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina try to win more support for the measure while other lawmakers focus on tax legislation.

“There are some things that inevitably have to change, but we do think that the format of what we’re doing and the principles of what we’re doing are good and that the American people will like it because it’s ultimately about fairness,” Cassidy said Monday on the Big Story Podcast with CQ Roll Call.

Next Health Secretary Could Set Course for Insurance System
Price’s successor will put own stamp on Obamacare

With the health care debate sidelined on Capitol Hill, the next Health and Human Services secretary will have the ability to determine the Trump administration’s approach on the current health care law.

Despite seven years of promises, Republicans have been unable to roll back the 2010 health care law as they’d planned before the end of September. The vacancy left by former Secretary Tom Price, who resigned last week amid scrutiny of his private jet use, added another challenge to a politically divisive battle.

Narrow Health Deal Close as Republicans Plot Future Efforts

Senate Democrats say lawmakers are on the cusp of a bipartisan health care deal aimed at stabilizing the individual insurance market over the next two years.

Sens. Lamar Alexander and Patty Murray, the chairman and ranking member of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, resumed talks on a narrow stabilization package after Republicans decided not to vote this week on a proposal to overhaul the 2010 health care law.

Updated Senate Health Bill Seeks to Sway Holdout Republicans

Senate Republicans are circulating an updated version of their latest proposal to overhaul the 2010 health care law. The new draft bill was obtained by CQ Roll Call.

The updated bill, from Sens. Lindsey Graham, R-.S.C., and Bill Cassidy, R-La., would overhaul the 2010 health care law. It appears to seek to address concerns of senators who haven’t supported the plan.

McConnell Opens Door to Health Care Vote Next Week

Senate leaders are preparing to hold a vote on an alternative to the 2010 health care law next week, although 50 Republicans have not confirmed they would vote for the proposal.

“It is the Leader’s intention to consider Graham-Cassidy on the floor next week,” Don Stewart, a spokesman for Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, said Wednesday in an email.

Governors Ask Congress to Help Stabilize Health Care Market
Chief executives add voice to congressional debate

Governors are calling for multiyear funding for cost-sharing payments and for federal assistance to launch reinsurance programs as part of a bipartisan measure to stabilize the individual insurance market.

The conversation among governors and senators in a Sept. 7 hearing before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee echoed what insurance commissioners told the same panel earlier in the week about how to bring stability to the individual insurance market before the fifth open enrollment period.

Governors Push for Fast Action on Health Coverage
Kasich, Hickenlooper et. al. call for hasty stabilization

A bipartisan group of eight governors, led by Ohio’s John Kasich and Colorado’s John Hickenlooper, submitted a health care proposal to congressional leaders this week that urges them to move quickly to stabilize the individual insurance market and to promote participation on the federal exchanges from both consumers and issuers.

Their suggestions come as the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee is gearing up for a set of September hearings on market stabilization, one that will include Hickenlooper, with hopes of advancing legislation to strengthen the exchanges ahead of the open enrollment period that begins in November. 

Senate Health Panel Will Hear From Governors, Insurance Leaders

The Senate’s key health care panel announced plans to hear from governors and state insurance commissioners early next month about ways to rein in rising prices for medical insurance purchased directly by consumers.

The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee on Tuesday set a hearing Sept. 6 with state insurance commissioners and another on Sept. 7 with governors. The committee, which has not yet said who will appear at the hearings, is also expected to announce additional sessions.

Bipartisan Health Care Work Taking Shape in Senate
Finance, HELP committees plan hearings after recess

The Senate Finance Committee is set to hold September hearings on proposals for overhauling federal health care policies, including a plan for reauthorizing a program that serves about 5.7 million children, according to Chairman Orrin G. Hatch announced Thursday.

The Finance panel is taking the same approach as the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, which also announced plans for bipartisan work after Republicans failed last week to advance a partisan measure to roll back much of the Democrats’ 2010 health care law. The HELP Committee plans to hold hearings the first week of September, after returning from the August recess.

McConnell Reveals ‘Skinny’ Bill Text as Midnight Vote Looms
At least 50 senators need to vote for repeal measure

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky revealed an eight-page scaled-back repeal of the 2010 health care law Thursday night. The development came as support grew among senators for the so-called skinny repeal as a way to continue the debate on health care legislation.

The amendment to the House-passed health care bill would repeal the 2010 law’s individual mandate and its employer mandate for eight years. It would repeal the law’s medical device tax for three years and increase the amount of money an individual can contribute to a health savings account for three years. It would provide additional funding for community health centers, while defunding Planned Parenthood for one year. Additionally, it would provide states additional flexibility through waivers that would allow states to roll back certain health care law insurance regulations.

CBO: 16 Million More Uninsured Under Potential 'Skinny' Repeal

An additional 16 million people would be uninsured by 2026 under a so-called “skinny repeal” measure Senate Republicans may be crafting, according to a Congressional Budget Office report requested by Senate Democrats. The analysis is of provisions that Senate Republicans have said might be in such a measure, but Republicans have not released the actual text.

The estimate evaluates a potential bill that would repeal the 2010 health law’s (PL 111-148 , PL 111-152) individual and employer mandates and medical device tax, as well as its prevention and public health and community health center funds. The Democrats’ interpretation of the GOP bill includes a provision to defund Planned Parenthood for one year. Democrats on the Finance and the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions committees asked for an analysis of selected provisions in the replacement plan measure that Senate Republicans had previously introduced.

Parts of Senate GOP Health Care Bill Break Rules, Parliamentarian Says
Abortion, insurance regulations, cost-sharing subsidies would require 60 votes

Several parts of the Senate health care bill would violate the chamber’s budget reconciliation rules, the Senate parliamentarian said in a guidance late Friday.

Provisions related to abortion, certain insurance regulations and funding the law’s cost-sharing subsidies could be struck under the so-called Byrd rule and would require 60 votes to survive.

McCain Diagnosis Puts Health Care Effort in More Jeopardy
Corker: ‘Obviously, it makes things difficult’

By MARY ELLEN McINTIRE and JOE WILLIAMS

Abrupt news that Arizona Sen. John McCain was diagnosed with brain cancer sent shock waves through an all-Republican meeting late Wednesday on the health care effort. Amid words of concern and encouragement for their GOP colleague, lawmakers acknowledged the difficulty his extended absence would place on the effort to overhaul the U.S. health insurance system.

Insurance Lobby Warns Against Cruz Amendment

Health insurance lobbying groups are raising concerns about a proposed amendment to the Senate health care bill, warning that a proposal from Sen. Ted Cruz would destabilize and fracture the individual insurance market.

The Texas Republican is pushing to allow insurers to sell policies on the federal exchanges that don’t meet the regulations laid out in the 2010 health care law (PL 111-148, PL 111-152), so long as an insurer offers one plan that does comply with the law. Senate leaders hope to bring the health care bill to the floor next week.

Senate GOP Aiming for Health Care Vote Next Week

Senate Republicans expect to release a revised version of a bill to roll back the 2010 health care law this week and vote on it the following week, Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, told reporters on Monday.

The lawmakers are considering several changes to a draft bill that Republicans released in June after weeks of closed-door meetings that nearly a dozen Republicans have said they don’t support. GOP leaders can afford to only lose two votes on a health care bill, which would allow Vice President Mike Pence to cast a tie-breaking vote.

CBO: Impact of Senate Bill’s Medicaid Cuts Would Grow Over Time
Federal spending on Medicaid would decrease by 35 percent in 2036

Federal spending on Medicaid would decrease by 35 percent over the next two decades under the Senate Republicans’ health care measure, according to a Thursday report by the Congressional Budget Office. That compares to a smaller 26 percent decrease after one decade under the legislation.

States would need to find different ways to deliver Medicaid services, such as committing more of their own resources to the program, cutting payments to providers and issuers or restricting eligibility for enrollment after the next decade, the report says.

Senate Republicans Raise Questions About Health Care Bill
‘My concern is this doesn’t repeal Obamacare,’ Rand Paul says

A few key Senate Republicans are already raising concerns with the discussion draft of a health care bill unveiled Thursday, which could threaten its passage if the measure comes up for a vote next week.

Multiple senators raised concerns with the draft they were briefed on Thursday morning, although many said they needed to review the proposal in full. Senate GOP leaders can only lose two Republican votes on the measure for it to pass with Vice President Mike Pence casting the tie-breaking vote as no Democrats are expected to vote for the measure. GOP leaders hope to bring the legislation to the floor for a vote next week.