President Trump is unhappy with Senate Republicans over their failure to pass even the “skinny” version of the repeal and replacement of ObamaCare. And when they refused to give it another shot, Trump tweeted that the party’s leadership are “total quitters.”
He’s also pushing Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to get rid of the 60-vote rule that kept the bill from passing and said they all “look like fools and are just wasting time.”
Without the 60 vote rule the “skinny” plan would have passed — easily.
Trump is being ignored. Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona blasted the president and said that rule is important. “I don't want to lurch back and forth every couple of years from one extreme to the other. Those rules are there for a reason. They're good. ... They invite us to work across the aisle,” Flake said.
The Senate’s number-two Republican Texas Sen. John Cornyn said don’t leap to conclusions. Something could yet pass. Just not now.
Here’s the worry now according to Tennessee Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander who chairs the Senate Health Committee. It’s worry about the state of the nation’s insurance markets.
“Tennessee's state insurance commissioner [Julie Mix McPeak] says our individual insurance market is very near collapse. Unless Congress acts, many of the 350,000 Tennesseans who buy health insurance in that market — songwriters, farmers, the self-employed — face the real prospect of having zero options to buy insurance in 2018 and 2019,” Alexander said.
It’s also deep on the mind of health insurers who wonder what the Trump administration is going to do. Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price said on Sunday that “no decision's been made.”
Yet insurers are remembering President Trump’s tweet on Saturday saying he’s thinking of ending the subsidies to insurers which help them help the poor afford insurance. “If a new HealthCare Bill is not approved quickly, BAILOUTS for Insurance Companies and BAILOUTS for Members of Congress will end very soon!” the president said and he promised that ObamaCare will implode “and soon,” the president said.
That said, Price told NBC’s Meet the Press that the administration will follow the law of the land. Or will he? White House spokeswoman Kellyanne Conway told Fox News Sunday that the president is going to decide this week what he’s going to do and if he’s going to make the subsidy payments.
White House Budget Director Mick Mulvaney told CNN’s State of the Union, “I talked to the president at length about that exact issue yesterday. What he’s saying is, look, if Obamacare is hurting people, and it is, then why shouldn’t it hurt insurance companies and, more importantly perhaps for this discussion, members of Congress?”
Trump wants members of Congress and their staffs to lose the subsidies that keep them from having to purchase insurance on the ObamaCare exchanges.
This was written on Tuesday morning early so by now the president may have made that decision. If so, Weekly Industry News will have analysis of it next week. But we also know the president has a habit of bouncing this way and that on these issues.
Key Republicans — like Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch of Utah and House Ways and Means Committee Chairman and Texas Republican Rep. Kevin Brady — want the president to guarantee those payments. “For those trapped in Obamacare, we must continue to look for immediate solutions to deliver relief, stop premiums from soaring even higher, and help people get the health care that’s right for them,” Brady said.
Plus, it might not be — politically — a good move. The Kaiser Family Foundation did a poll on how the people feel about Trump cutting those funds and about Republicans working to hasten the demise of ObamaCare. It found 61% of us say they’ll be responsible for future problems.
Andrew Slavitt who is the acting administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) is worried about the president’s comments and so are insurers and insurer groups. Slavitt said cutting off the subsidy payments “will be felt by the middle class who will pay more to subsidize low income.”
America's Health Insurance Plans (AHIP) predicts a 20% jump if those payments are cut off. And it’s getting support from McConnell who said, “Bailing out insurance companies, with no thought of any kind of reform, is not something I want to be a part of.”
And at that, Senate Minority Leader Sen. Chuck Schumer put it all in perspective. “If the President refuses to make the cost sharing reduction payments, every expert agrees that premiums will go up and health care will be more expensive for millions of Americans, the president ought to stop playing politics with people's lives and health care,” he said.
The Senate’s number three Republican Sen. John Thune of South Dakota says that’s just not going to happen. “I guess I'm hopeful that the administration, the president will keep making them and if he doesn't then I guess we'll have to figure out from a congressional standpoint what we do,” he said.
Cornyn agrees and said if Trump fails to act Congress will and the president will have no political choice but to sign the legislation.
In the end, the vote surprised no one and the outcome came about because of failure to reach across the aisle. Sen. John McCain who a couple of days before cast a vote that allowed debate wanted bipartisan support and bipartisan cooperation to solve the healthcare crisis in this U.S. but didn’t get it.
McCain along with Alaska Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski and Maine Republican Sen. Susan Snow voted no and it is McCain who is being blamed for the failure to advance the bill. In his comments on why he voted the way he did, McCain said, “We must now return to the correct way of legislating and send the bill back to committee, hold hearings, receive input from both sides of the aisle, heed the recommendations of nation’s governors, and produce a bill that finally delivers affordable health care for the American people.”
McCain and other Republicans — and the Democrats — blasted the way McConnell went about putting the various versions of the Senate bill together. Much of it was done behind closed doors with the majority Republicans learning of what was going on at lunch meetings and in other after-the-fact ways.
With the failure to advance the bill to a conference committee with the House, McConnell said he’s done and it’s time to move on, “What we tried to accomplish for the American people was the right thing for the country I think the American people are going to regret that we couldn't find another way forward. Now I think it’s appropriate to ask, what are their [Democrat] ideas? It’ll be interesting to see what they suggest as the way forward.”
Schumer said he’s willing to work with Republicans and believes there is a “thirst” among them to work with Democrats. After the vote, he told McConnell and the Senate, “We are not celebrating. We’re relieved. Let’s turn the page and work together to improve our health care system.”
A few days later he laid out some things Democrats want to start the process. “At the very beginning, we should stabilize the system. Make permanent the cost sharing, which keeps premiums low. That is what we should do initially. Then, we should sit down and trade ideas,” Schumer said.
Schumer says he’s already reached out to House Speaker Paul Ryan about bipartisan collaboration. But he’s also encountered some resistance from McConnell who says the Republicans still aren’t willing to pour money into a losing proposition. Schumer agreed and said, “There has to be a give and take. My colleagues and my caucus know that.”
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi has also indicated wanting to work with Republicans on solutions. “Democrats extend the hand of friendship, and look forward to our working together in the regular order for the good of the American people,” she said.
Pelosi has also insisted that President Trump get involved and cooperate in the working together process or stay out of it altogether.
Rep. Joseph Crowley of New York is the chair of the House Democratic Caucus. He said, “We have stood ready with ideas and thoughts about how we can mend or improve the Affordable Care Act. It is really incumbent upon them to come join us and bring us to the table.”
Stay tuned. This controversy and the push to reform, replace or repeal ObamaCare isn’t close to over.
Source links: The Hill — link 1, link 2, link 3, link 4, link 5, link 6, The Washington Examiner, Insurance Journal, OregonLive.com, The Washington Post