GOP Will Wait Till Next Year on Health Insurance Stabilization

Susan Collins made vote on taxes contingent on passage of bills

Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, made her vote on the tax package contingent on passing the health insurance stabilization measures. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Key Republicans announced on Wednesday they would no longer push for legislation to stabilize the health insurance markets to hitch a ride on a short-term measure to fund the government. 

Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Chairman Lamar Alexander of Tennessee and Sen. Susan Collins of Maine have been pushing the legislation, with Collins even staking her vote for the GOP tax bill in part on the measure passing before the end of 2017.

The decision by the two lawmakers clears a major hurdle to Congress passing a measure to fund the government beyond Dec. 22, when current funding expires.

“Rather than considering a broad year-end funding agreement as we expected, it has become clear that Congress will only be able to pass another short-term extension,” Alexander and Collins said in a statement. “For this reason, we have asked [Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell] not to offer this week our legislation.”

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The two members instead said instead they would push for the legislation to be included when Congress considers a broader spending package next year.

“It looks like the Christmas present of lower health insurance premiums will now have to be a Valentine’s Day present,” Alexander said.

Collins in the statement said she spoke with House Speaker Paul D. Ryan, who told her he remains committed to passing a separate health care bill Collins introduced with Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson of Florida.

The release did not mention Ryan’s support for the insurance stabilization bill Alexander sponsored with Sen. Patty Murray of Washington, the top Democrat on the Senate health panel.

The release from Collins and Alexander also indicated Congress would wait until next year to fully reauthorize a popular children’s health insurance program. Funding for CHIP expired at the end of September.

Several states say they will need to start freezing enrollment or even shutting down parts of their programs soon if Congress does not authorize the program. 

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