Key Senate Republicans have asked Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to push critical health care bills into the new year, saying spats over a stopgap to keep the government open made it impossible to stabilize Obamacare now.
Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee and Susan Collins of Maine said they asked the GOP leaders to hold off after it became clear that Congress would push key fights in January instead of settling on a broad, year-end deal before Christmas.
“There is every reason to believe that these important provisions can and will be delivered as part of a bipartisan agreement. And Majority Leader McConnell has told us that he will uphold his commitment to schedule and support the legislation,” they said.
Mr. Alexander co-sponsored a bill that would restore “cost-sharing” payments to insurers, while Ms. Collins put forward a bipartisan bill that offers $10 billion dollars in reinsurance funding to blunt the cost of particularly pricey customers over the next two years.
They said the measures would bring down premiums, mitigating the fallout from repealing the “individual mandate” as part of the GOP tax overall, as healthy people start to drop out of the markets. Ms. Collins even conditioned her support for the tax bill on approve of both bills before the end of the year.
Conservatives never liked the bills, however, and pro-life members insisted on “Hyde” protections to make sure Obamacare payments couldn’t be funneled toward coverage for abortion.
Democrats said Republicans negotiated in bad faith by repealing the mandate, sparking new problems in the markets, and placing conditions around the cost-sharing payments.
“In order to succeed, our legislation must be bipartisan, and the Senate Democratic leader said on Tuesday that Democrats would not support it in the current environment even though as recently as October he said that all Democrats would,” Mr. Alexander and Ms. Collins said.