A bipartisan group of roughly 40 House members has been meeting quietly over the past month to explore ways to stabilize Obamacare — efforts that are expected to take on greater urgency after the shocking collapse of the Senate’s Obamacare bill early Friday morning.
“This is our window to be relevant on a very real issue that impacts our constituents,” said one Republican lawmaker in the group who requested anonymity. The negotiations among the so-called Problem Solvers caucus will resume this morning, the lawmaker said.
Obamacare’s shaky insurance markets are facing perilous limbo with no clear path forward on health care in Washington. The Senate repeal effort blew up last night after Arizona Sen. John McCain joined two other GOP senators in opposing a slimmed down bill eliminating parts of Obamacare.
President Donald Trump has threatened to cut off crucial Obamacare cost-sharing subsidies, estimated at $7 billion this year, as soon as next month. That could lead to an exodus of insurers, who rely on those payments to reduce out-of-pocket costs for their poorest customers under Obamacare.
But some Republican lawmakers now controlling Washington fear they would take the blame for Obamacare’s problems, as polls have indicated. And Democrats are eager to stabilize President Barack Obama’s signature health care law.
Roughly 25,000 Obamacare customers in 38 states are at risk of having no insurers willing to offer coverage next year, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. In many other places, Obamacare customers only have one insurance option.
The Problem Solvers caucus, led by Tom Reed (R-N.Y.) and Josh Gottheimer (D-N.J.), is about evenly split between Republican and Democratic lawmakers. It usually meets weekly as a full group, but a health care working group has been meeting over the past month on health care, the lawmaker said, declining to elaborate on the discussions.
Bipartisan efforts on health care coverage have been nearly impossible since Obamacare passed seven years ago with only Democratic votes. Republicans over the past six months pushed forward with efforts to abolish the Affordable Care Act without any input from Democrats, who have refused to cooperate unless wholesale repeal is taken off the table.
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