Governors provide suggestions for health insurance reform

According to NPR, there’s a new approach to health care form in Washington.

Whereas the previous approach was violently partisan and involved major legislation that would have repealed most of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), the new approach is incremental and centered on compromise.

The failure of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s (R-Ky.) last attempt at drastic reform has apparently chastened Congressional Republicans.

Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), the chair of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, is piecing together bipartisan legislation that will stabilize the ACA’s insurance exchanges for 2018.

He is operating under a deadline. Insurance companies must commit to the exchanges and set their plan prices by Sept. 27.

Alexander hopes to have legislation ready to go in no more than 10 days.

A group of five governors testified before Alexander’s committee on Thursday. They provided the committee with some suggestions for moving forward.

There was broad agreement about the necessity of appropriating funds for cost-sharing reductions. These are payments to insurance companies that help offset the discounts they are required to give low-income customers.

President Trump has threatened to block the CSR payments. The insurance companies have responded by proposing significant premium increases for 2018.

Alexander believes getting funding for CSRs will be relatively easy. His greatest challenge will be winning concessions to appease conservative Republicans. Conservative Republicans have spent years criticizing Obamacare and will be unlikely to vote in favor of appropriations without some changes to the program.

The governors had plenty of suggestions.

Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker (R) suggested reinsurance pools. Lori Wing-Heier, director of Alaska’s Division of Insurance, testified earlier in the week that Alaska’s new reinsurance pools had helped curb premium increases.

Sen. Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.) argued that some of the reinsurance money should come from the federal government.

All the governors supported Alexander’s proposal to grant states waivers that would allow them to design their own health care systems.

However, Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) argued this might affect the quality of insurance policies.

Gov. Bill Haslam (R) of Tennessee disputed that notion.

The governors had a mixed response to a proposal that would allow more people to buy high-deductible catastrophic plans. These plans are currently only open to people under 30.