Republicans Weigh Funding to Stabilize Health Insurance Market

The GOP bill to overhaul the health law could include upwards of $30 billion

House Ways and Means Chairman Kevin Brady and other Republicans have said Congress should provide some way to stabilize the individual health insurance exchange markets. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)
House Ways and Means Chairman Kevin Brady and other Republicans have said Congress should provide some way to stabilize the individual health insurance exchange markets. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)
Posted June 9, 2017 at 11:29am

Senate Republicans are weighing a major move to help stabilize the insurance markets created by President Barack Obama’s signature domestic policy achievement in their legislation to overhaul the U.S. health care system.

The chamber’s counterpart legislation to the House-passed bill to repeal and replace the 2010 health law could include up to $30 billion in funding to help the shaky individual insurance exchange, a GOP aide and lobbyists tell Roll Call. That would be divided into $15 billion each year, the Republican aide said.

Most of that money, lobbyists say, would be directed toward funding the law’s so-called cost-sharing subsidies, which help reduce health care costs for lower income people. The White House has left the insurance industry questioning if those payments will continue. President Donald Trump has sought to use that uncertainty as leverage in negotiations with Democrats. 

Insurers have said those subsidies are necessary to ensure stability in the individual market, and several companies have cited the unpredictability surrounding them as justification for either pulling out of the exchange markets or increasing premium costs next year.

Republicans have long said they will need to take measures to help stabilize the individual exchanges that are suffering from several major insurer departures.

“In the immediate term, action must be taken to stabilize the individual insurance market and protect Americans from the consequences of Obamacare’s collapse,” House Ways and Means Chairman Kevin Brady of Texas said on Thursday. “We should act within our constitutional authority now to temporarily and legally fund Cost Sharing Reduction payments.”

Some GOP members, like Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Chairman Lamar Alexander, have even expressed support for passing legislation in the short-term to help shore up the markets before a major overhaul of the health law is advanced.

“We might have to do some things and authorize some things in those two years that we wouldn’t do long-term,” the Tennesee Republican previously told Roll Call. “And then in 2020, we would hope to have our long-term solution for the people that don’t have the insurance.”

While GOP senators continue to grapple with key policy decisions on the bill, moderate lawmakers say they are making progress towards a consensus.