Deal Or No Deal? Bipartisan ACA Agreement Faces Challenges (Beltway Buzz, October 20, 2017)


Deal or No Deal? Bipartisan ACA Agreement Faces Challenges. A bipartisan agreement forged by senators Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Patty Murray (D-WA) that would temporarily restore funding for cost-sharing reductions (CSRs) is in limbo, already generating supporters and detractors—and mixed signals from the president. On Tuesday, the two senators announced that they had reached a consensus on a bill that would combine continued funding for CSRs for two years in exchange for, among other things, granting states increased flexibility to regulate insurance under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and authorizing lower-cost, high-deductible policies. The agreement comes on the heels of the president's announcement late last week that he intends to cut off all future CSR payments beginning in 2018—a move that swiftly created panic within the health care industry, which feared sudden steep premium increases, insurance company mass exoduses, and reduced coverage. The president initially commended the senators for their effort, stating that “it will get us over the immediate hump.” However, the president's tone changed less than 24 hours later, when he said in a tweet that he could never support “bailing out” insurance companies that “made a fortune with Obamacare,” and he made similar statements to the press on Wednesday. As for the Senate and the House, Democrats generally are expected to lend their support, but Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has been noncommittal, and Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) announced his opposition on Wednesday. If this latest bipartisan proposal is to have any positive impact on insurance and coverage rates for 2018, it must be passed—and signed—swiftly. Battle lines are drawn; emotions are raw; and if the recent past is any guide, there is no reliable prognosticator in Washington or elsewhere who would attempt to predict what might happen next. (Hat tip to Richard C. Libert, Stephanie A. Smithey, and Timothy G. Verrall.)

Labor/Employment Nominees Advance. On October 18, the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee advanced nine nominations for labor-related positions in the federal government. The nominees include Patrick Pizzella to serve as Deputy Secretary for the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL); Cheryl Stanton to serve as Wage and Hour Division Administrator at DOL; David Zatezalo to serve as Assistant Secretary of Labor for Mine Safety and Health at DOL; Peter Robb to serve as General...

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