Republicans in Congress spent seven years explaining why Obamacare is fundamentally flawed and unfixable, and they promised to repeal and replace the law. Now, they’re trying to save the law. This past week, the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee held a series of hearings to stabilize the state and federal insurance exchanges.
This about-face is not only a betrayal of Republican voters but also a political misstep that will tie the GOP’s fate to the previous president’s disastrous healthcare law.
At a hearing on Sept. 6, the committee heard from state insurance commissioners. On Sept. 7, five governors (three Republicans and two Democrats) testified. The main topic of both events was Obamacare’s cost-sharing reduction subsidies and reintroducing a reinsurance program so insurers would get funding to cover individuals with expensive conditions.
This bailout program pays insurers to reduce out-of-pocket costs for low-income patients. A federal judge ruled the program unconstitutional last year. Yet the Obama and Trump administrations made the $7 billion-a-year payments anyway. The CSR payments are continuing on a month-to-month basis in spite of President Trump’s promising to end the program.
Insurers, of course, want their money, which is expected to total $10 billion in 2018. And they are threatening massive rate hikes if they don’t get it. As he made clear during the hearings, HELP Committee Chairman Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., is more than willing to cave in to those demands for at least another year and perhaps two.
Another two hearings are scheduled for the coming days, with an eye toward striking a deal to prop up the exchanges by the end of this week.
Republicans shouldn’t follow Alexander’s lead. Any bipartisan fix will only keep Obamacare on life-support, wasting taxpayer money and merely delaying the inevitable demise of the exchanges.
It’s not the job of GOP lawmakers to repair the previous president’s broken healthcare law.