Senators, Including Patty Murray, Reach Deal to Fund Subsidies to Health Insurers

Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., worked with Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., to strike a deal.
Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., worked with Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., to strike a deal.

© 2017 New York Times News Service

WASHINGTON — Two leading senators have reached a bipartisan deal to provide funding for critical subsidies to health insurers that President Donald Trump said last week that he would cut off, Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., said Tuesday.

The plan agreed to by Alexander and Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., is intended to stabilize health insurance markets under the Affordable Care Act.

As one part of the deal, the subsidies would be funded for two years, a step that would provide at least short-term certainty to insurers. The subsidies, known as cost-sharing reductions, lower out-of-pocket costs for low-income consumers.

Trump said he was aware of the deal, describing the effort as very close to a “short term” solution.

“The solution will be about a year or two years. And it will get us over this intermediate hump,” Trump said Tuesday during a news conference in the Rose Garden.

“It is a short term solution,” he said, adding that the long term solution is to issue “block grants” to states to help people buy private insurance.

Alexander said that in addition to funding the payments to insurers, the deal would also give states “more flexibility in the variety of choices they can give to consumers,” which should appeal to Republican lawmakers eager to give states more say over health care.

“This takes care of the next two years,” Alexander said. “After that, we can have a full-fledged debate on where we go long-term on health care.”

The deal between Alexander, the chairman of the Senate health committee, and Murray, the panel’s top Democrat, is an important step for lawmakers hoping to shore up insurance markets after Republicans’ failed efforts to repeal the health law.

Alexander told reporters on Monday that Trump had encouraged him to reach a deal with Murray.

But it remains to be seen whether conservative-leaning Republicans will get on board with the agreement, and whether the House will entertain it. Some Republicans have said they do not wish to provide what they describe as a bailout to insurers.

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