Efforts Underway for Bipartisan Health Care Reform Despite Daunting Political Hurdles

August 04, 2017

With the viability of the Affordable Care Act exchanges threatened by the loss of subsidies, key GOP Senate committee chairmen announced this week they will hold a series of bipartisan hearings to repair the ACA when Congress returns in September.  Any legislation that emerges, however, will likely face serious challenges.  Finance Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-UT) said he will hold a hearing on reauthorizing the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP), which is set to expire at the end of September, but it could also become a vehicle for a wide variety of reform proposals from both sides of the aisle.  HELP Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN) also announced he will hold hearings on how to stabilize and strengthen the individual market and hoped to pass a bill by the end of September to authorize funding for the ACA's cost-sharing reduction subsidies to address affordability issues with ACA exchange plans. Additional reform proposals with potential bipartisan support that could be added to any measure that advances include:
  • Funding for state stability and/or reinsurance programs; 
  • Delaying the Cadillac tax, medical device tax, and health insurance tax; and 
  • Increasing the threshold for the employer mandate to 500 or more employees.
While Alexander has a history of bipartisan accomplishments with the Committee's Ranking Democrat Patty Murray (D-WA), the Committee membership includes a wide array of viewpoints that include those of Rand Paul (R-KY), Susan Collins (R-ME), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA).  The goal would be to pass a bill through both houses before the ACA open-season begins on November 1, 2017.