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The Affordable Care Act

  • Hopes Fade That Congress Will Stabilize Obamacare New York Magazine by Ed Kilgore — Remember "Obamacare stabilization," one of the great bipartisan causes of 2017? Mostly in response to the president's suspension of so-called cost-sharing-reduction reimbursements to insurers required to limit the out-of-pocket costs to low-income participants in the Obamacare markets, legislation developed by Senators Lamar Alexander and Patty Murray developed a real head of steam in the Senate, until opposition from House Republicans and the White House stalled its momentum. Then in December, Senator Susan Collins got assurances from both Mitch McConnell and the president that both the Alexander-Murray legislation and a bill she co-sponsored with Florida Democrat Bill Nelson giving states money to set up reinsurance pools for high-cost Obamacare patients would be included in an omnibus spending bill that was being negotiated. Collins gave Republicans a critical vote for their tax bill in no small part due to these assurances. Well, nearly three months later, the promises to Collins have yet to be kept; the only real excuse is that Congress has passed a series of short-term spending measures, with the real omnibus appropriations bill still being negotiated in advance of a pretty serious March 23 deadline. But the odds of Obamacare stabilization legislation making it into this package are definitely fading. For one thing, House Republicans are now demanding strict language prohibiting use of any Obamacare subsidy dollars for purchase of private insurance policies covering abortion services.

  • Lamar Alexander Seeks Support for Obamacare Stabilization Plan Washington Times by Tom Howell Jr. — With time running out, Sen. Lamar Alexander is pleading with Congress to rally behind his Obamacare-stabilization plan for two simple reasons — it will slash premiums, and it pays for itself. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that a bipartisan plan to restore insurer payments that President Trump canceled last year, and free up billions of dollars to subsidize super-costly enrollees, would cut consumers' premiums by 10 percent nationwide next year. States that win waivers to allow alternative health plans could cut their consumers' premiums by 20 percent in 2020 and 2021, the CBO said in its preliminary evaluation of Mr. Alexander's bill. The Tennessee Republican said it's critical to do something as part of this week's must-pass spending bill before insurance companies set their 2019 prices, which could shock consumers this fall. "They'll be announced on October 1. About a month before the next election. There are a lot of people who are going to be looking at that," Mr. Alexander said. The senator has been pushing for months for some version of the plan he crafted with Sen. Patty Murray, Washington Democrat, that would pay insurers billions of dollars a year in "cost-sharing reductions" (CSRs) to cover poor customers' out-of-pocket costs.

  • Shutdown Looming, Congress and White House Seek Budget Deal Associated Press by Andrew Taylor — Congressional leaders and the White House are pressing to strike an accord on a $1.3 trillion catchall spending bill, though disputes remain over immigration, abortion, and a massive rail project that pits President Donald Trump against his most powerful Democratic adversary. ...While most of the funding issues in the enormous measure have been sorted out, fights involving a number of policy "riders" — so named because they catch a ride on a difficult-to-stop spending bill — continued into the weekend. Among them are GOP-led efforts to add a plan to revive federal subsidies to help the poor cover out-of-pocket costs under President Barack Obama's health law and to fix a glitch in the recent tax bill that subsidizes grain sales to cooperatives at the expense of for-profit grain companies.

  • Obamacare Insurers Just Had Their Best Year Ever — Despite Trump Politico by Paul Demko — Obamacare is no longer busting the bank for insurers. After three years of financial bloodletting under the law — and despite constant repeal threats and efforts by the Trump administration to dismantle it — many of the remaining insurers made money on individual health plans for the first time last year, according to a POLITICO analysis of financial filings for 29 regional Blue Cross Blue Shield plans, often the dominant player in their markets. The biggest reason for the improvement is simple: big premium spikes. The Blue plans increased premiums by more than 25 percent on average in 2017, meaning many insurers charged enough to cover their customers' medical costs for the first time since the Affordable Care Act marketplaces launched in 2014 with robust coverage requirements.…The healthier balance sheets are a welcome development for insurers after three years of major Obamacare losses, estimated at more than $15 billion by McKinsey.

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