Another bid at ACA stabilization – and likely another failure

Joanne Kenen

About Joanne Kenen

Joanne Kenen, (@JoanneKenen) the health editor at Politico, is AHCJ’s topic leader on health reform and curates related material at healthjournalism.org. She welcomes questions and suggestions on health reform resources and tip sheets at joanne@healthjournalism.org. Follow her on Facebook.

Photo by Sean Stayte via flickr

Lamar Alexander and Patty Murray are circulating a new “ACA stabilization” plan that in some ways is more ambitious than past efforts and takes into account the repeal of the individual mandate penalty. The senators are trying to get it into the omnibus spending bill Congress wants to pass by March 23.

But success is not very likely at this point. It’s not impossible given all the horse-trading that has to happen to get a huge omnibus spending bill passed, and Alexander, in particular, is persisting. But it definitely is a long shot. Republicans want to add abortion restrictions that are not acceptable to Democrats. Also, a cluster of conservatives – a handful in the Senate and more in the House – are opposed to spending any money fixing the Affordable Care Act or, as they call it, “bailing out” insurers.

One reason the effort is not totally dead: the plan would bring down premiums next year, and that’s an attractive thing for politicians to go home and talk about before facing voters in November. A preliminary Congressional Budget Office analysis estimates that premiums (which are expected to rise because of the mandate repeal and the introduction of non-ACA compliant health plans) would be 10 percent lower in 2019 on average if this legislation were enacted, and by 20 percent on average in the following two years (with some variability among states). Some private analysts estimate higher. Major elements of the Alexander-Murray proposal include:

Here are reports from The Hill and Politico on the proposals – though odds of passage decreased since publication. This story from Kaiser Health News provides some history.

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