Two key U.S. senators, a Republican and a Democrat, reached agreement Tuesday on a two-year deal to stabilize the country's health insurance markets and give consumers the possibility of buying cheaper policies, a deal President Donald Trump said he supports.
The accord between Republican Senator Lamar Alexander and Democratic Senator Patty Murray came after weeks of negotiations between the two in the aftermath of failed efforts in recent months by the Republican-controlled Senate to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, the seven-year-old health care law championed by former President Barack Obama commonly known as Obamacare.
Trump, at a White House news conference, called the deal, which would have to be approved by Congress, "a short-term solution." Trump said he still wants to overhaul Obamacare under an already-defeated plan to send federal money to each of the country's 50 states and allow them to set their own policies on providing health care for poorer Americans.
Trump last week ended subsidies to insurance companies, billions of dollars in reimbursements the government was paying to the insurers to offset their costs to provide cheaper insurance policies to low-income people.
Plan would restore payments
The Alexander-Murray agreement would restore those payments, a policy heavily favored by Democrats and some Republicans.
At the same time, in a proposal aimed at winning Republican support for the compromise, state governors, rather than state legislatures, would be given the right to approve insurance plans that provide "comparable affordability" to Obamacare plans on the market, Alexander said.
Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer said, "We've achieved stability if this agreement becomes law."
But whether Congress will approve the Alexander-Murray proposal, even with Trump's support, is uncertain. One Republican opponent of the law, Congressman Mark Walker of North Carolina, said Republicans "should focus on repealing and replacing Obamacare, not trying to save it. This bailout is unacceptable."
Polls show support for Obamacare
While Democrats have uniformly lined up in support of Obamacare, Republican lawmakers have tried dozens of time, unsuccessfully, to repeal the law, which is anathema to them chiefly because it requires most Americans to buy health insurance, or pay a fine if they do not. No Republican voted for Obamacare in 2010 when a Democratic-controlled Congress narrowly passed it, with many Republican lawmakers calling it government over-reach because of the tax provision.
Since then, the law has gained in popularity, with national polls showing a majority of Americans want to keep it.
Most American workers get their health insurance coverage through their employers, with the government subsidizing health care payments for older, disabled and poorer Americans. Those most affected by the latest fight over the law are the 20 million people who get insurance under Obamacare, buying their insurance as individuals rather than helping pay for it at a workplace.