WASHINGTON – The top Republican and Democrat on the Senate health committee reached a deal Tuesday that would provide a two-year extension of federal health care payments to insurers to help reduce premiums for low-income earners in an effort to stabilize the health care markets.
Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn. and Sen. Patty Murray, the top Democrat on the committee, outlined the agreement during separate meetings with their party members Tuesday.
“I’ve talked to enough senators, for example Sen. (Lindsey) Graham and Sen. (Bill) Cassidy,” said Alexander of the two members who had tried to create a compromise Health care repeal. “Both support this idea because they feel like that we don’t want chaos. We do want a full debate about the long term, but for the next two years we want to make sure that people can buy insurance at an affordable price.”
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., praised the agreement for providing stability, reducing premiums and including anti-sabotage provisions to protect the Affordable Care Act from being deliberately taken apart and called on the GOP leadership and President Donald Trump to move on the agreement “as quickly as possible.”
The agreement came days after Trump issued an executive order mandating the elimination of subsidies to insurance companies with an expectation that it would force the Democrats to negotiate.
“Patients and families across our country are looking at the harmful steps that President Trump has taken to sabotage health care in our country,” Murray said. “Chairman Alexander and I were able to find common ground on a number of steps to stabilize the market.”
Trump pushed senators to reach across the aisle and work together on the “short-term agreement” at a press conference Monday with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-KY.
After months of resistance from Democrats and failed GOP attempts to repeal Obamacare,
Alexander said that he did not receive any objections from his caucus members on the deal and said at this point the party is “focused on tax reform.”
McConnell did not give an immediate timeline of when the agreement could make it to a Senate vote during the weekly GOP Senate press conference. “We haven’t had a chance to think about the way forward yet,” he said.