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Hickenlooper, 9 other governors, push for Murray-Alexander bill to fix Obamacare

October 23, 2017, 9:25 am

As President Donald Trump continues his assault on Obamacare — halving the enrollment period, cutting low-income subsidies and slashing marketing budgets by 90 percent — a bipartisan group of governors trudges on with its efforts to work with Congress to shore up health-insurance markets and bring down rates.

Gov. John Hickenlooper

Gov. John Hickenlooper

Last week, Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper and a group of nine other Democratic and Republican governors urged Congress (pdf) to move quickly to pass legislation to stabilize health insurance markets and make it more affordable ahead of the condensed open enrollment period that kicks off Nov. 1.

“Federal law requires insurers to provide discounted cost-sharing for lower income Americans,” the governors point out. “With the elimination of federal payments for the cost sharing reduction program, insurers are faced with significant financial losses, which could force them to withdraw from the marketplace, or, in some states, request significant rate increases.”

Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee and Democrat Sen. Patty Murray of Washington have negotiated a bipartisan deal that helps achieve some of the  governors’ goals, so the group sent a letter to Congress urging a vote on Alexander-Murray by the House and Senate. Trump alternately indicated both support and disapproval of the bill over the course of three days last week, making its future uncertain.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Sunday told CNN he’s waiting for Trump to make up his mind to determine whether Alexander-Murray will get a Senate vote.

“If there’s a need for some kind of interim step here to stabilize the market, we need a bill the president will actually sign. And I’m not certain yet what the president is looking for here, but I will be happy to bring a bill to the floor if I know President Trump would sign it,” the Kentucky Republican told CNN.

Donald Trump

President Donald Trump

The legality of Trump’s efforts to do what Congress was unable to do — essentially repeal Obamacare using executive orders and funding sabotage — may not be legal. According to the Constitution, presidents must “take care that the law be faithfully executed,” and Obamacare remains the law of the land. But to some extent, the damage has already been done, and the number of uninsured Americans is climbing.

No matter what happens before Congress convenes later this year, Trump has put his imprint on the Affordable Care Act, destabilizing it in many significant ways and turning it into his own version of Trumpcare.

Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet has joined fellow Democrat Tim Kaine of Virginia in proposing a plan called Medicare X to develop a public option on the Obamacare marketplaces, according to Vox. It would be rolled out first in places like rural Colorado with only one or two private insurance options.

“I don’t think the United States should be the only country to not have universal health care at a reasonable cost,” Bennet told Vox. “I also think we need to recognize there are a lot of people who get their insurance through their employer and like the insurance they have through their employer.”

Bennet and Kaine are touting Medicare X as the best way to stabilize the markets.

The Kaine-Bennet plan will have a long uphill fight in both Republican-controlled chambers.

And with less than 10 days until the open enrollment period begins, uncertainty and chaos rule the day, as insurance companies continue to jack up rates for individual and small-group plans and no replacement plan has been passed to stabilize insurance markets.

Unless something dramatic happens soon, Obamacare will be well on its way to becoming Trumpcare, with millions of Americans paying higher premiums and deductibles, or losing coverage altogether.

That includes millions of low-income children. Congress allowed federal funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) to expire on Sept. 30, putting the onus on states to come up with short-term fixes to keep the 20-year-old program going. CHIP covers children from low-income families who earn too much to qualify for Medicaid.

States are currently using short-term funding fixes to cover CHIP but will soon have to start scaling back, with many children being shifted over to Medicaid. However, some states haven’t linked CHIP to Medicaid, so up to 4 million low-income children will lose coverage outright.




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David O. Williams

Managing Editor at RealVail
David O. Williams is the editor and co-founder of RealVail.com and has had his awarding-winning work (see About Us) published in more than 75 newspapers and magazines around the world, including 5280 Magazine, American Way Magazine (American Airlines), the Anchorage Daily News (Alaska), the Anchorage Daily Press (Alaska), Aspen Daily News, Aspen Journalism, the Aspen Times, Beaver Creek Magazine, the Boulder Daily Camera, the Casper Star Tribune (Wyoming), the Chicago Tribune, Colorado Central Magazine, the Colorado Independent (formerly Colorado Confidential), Colorado Newsline, Colorado Politics (formerly the Colorado Statesman), Colorado Public News, the Colorado Springs Gazette, the Colorado Springs Independent, the Colorado Statesman (now Colorado Politics), the Colorado Times Recorder, the Cortez Journal, the Craig Daily Press, the Curry Coastal Pilot (Oregon), the Daily Trail (Vail), the Del Norte Triplicate (California), the Denver Daily News, the Denver Gazette, the Denver Post, the Durango Herald, the Eagle Valley Enterprise, the Eastside Journal (Bellevue, Washington), ESPN.com, Explore Big Sky (Mont.), the Fort Morgan Times (Colorado), the Glenwood Springs Post-Independent, the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel, the Greeley Tribune, the Huffington Post, the King County Journal (Seattle, Washington), the Kingman Daily Miner (Arizona), KUNC.org (northern Colorado), LA Weekly, the Las Vegas Sun, the Leadville Herald-Democrat, the London Daily Mirror, the Moab Times Independent (Utah), the Montgomery Journal (Maryland), the Montrose Daily Press, The New York Times, the Parent’s Handbook, Peaks Magazine (now Epic Life), People Magazine, Powder Magazine, the Pueblo Chieftain, PT Magazine, the Rio Blanco Herald Times (Colorado), Rocky Mountain Golf Magazine, the Rocky Mountain News, RouteFifty.com (formerly Government Executive State and Local), the Salt Lake Tribune, SKI Magazine, Ski Area Management, SKIING Magazine, the Sky-Hi News, the Steamboat Pilot & Today, the Sterling Journal Advocate (Colorado), the Summit Daily News, United Hemispheres (United Airlines), Vail/Beaver Creek Magazine, Vail en Español, Vail Health Magazine, Vail Valley Magazine, the Vail Daily, the Vail Trail, Westword (Denver), Writers on the Range and the Wyoming Tribune Eagle. Williams is also the founder, publisher and editor of RealVail.com and RockyMountainPost.com.

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