Wolf joins governors in backing Alexander-Murray Obamacare proposal

Gov. Tom Wolf has called on Congress to bring Alexander-Murray to a vote in the U.S. House and Senate. - (Photo / File)

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf has joined his counterparts from nine other states in speaking out in favor of a bipartisan U.S. Senate proposal that would continue Obamacare subsidies.

The Alexander-Murray agreement, proposed by Sens. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and Patty Murray (D-Wash.), would continue cost-sharing subsidies to health insurance markets under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), as Obamacare is formally known.

President Donald Trump last week proposed eliminating those subsidies as part of an executive order giving businesses and consumers the ability to circumvent ACA marketplace regulations in order to find coverage with lower premiums, crossing state lines if necessary.

Alexander-Murray would would fund the subsidies for two more years, relieving some of the concerns expressed by insurers about how elimination of funding would destabilize the marketplace.

Wolf has called on Congress to bring Alexander-Murray to a vote in the U.S. House and Senate. He was joined by a bipartisan group of governors from Colorado, Ohio, Alaska, Montana, Nevada, Louisiana, Virginia, Massachusetts and Vermont, made up of five Republicans, three Democrats and an Independent.

“This legislation would help make insurance more affordable for families, seniors, entrepreneurs, and people seeking substance use treatment,” Wolf said.

Trump initially signaled support for Alexander-Murray, but later recanted.

“Congress must act and cannot allow politics or chaos to hurt families, seniors and people in need of care,” he added. “Let Alexander-Murray have an up-or-down vote and give governors the tools to stabilize markets and work to bring down the cost of health care.”

Governors’ letter

The full text of the letter is below:

Dear Mr. Speaker, Leader McConnell, Leader Pelosi and Leader Schumer:

We urge Congress to quickly pass legislation to stabilize our private health insurance markets and make quality health insurance more available and affordable. Senators Alexander and Murray have negotiated in good faith and developed a bipartisan agreement that will help achieve these goals. Their legislation deserves a vote by the House and Senate.

Federal law requires insurers to provide discounted cost-sharing for lower income Americans. With the elimination of federal payments for the cost sharing reduction program, insurers are faced with significant financial losses, which could force them to withdraw from the marketplace, or, in some states, request significant rate increases.

The Congressional Budget Office warned that the president’s action would increase premiums by 25 percent by 2020 and leave some Americans without any insurers in the nongroup market– all while driving up the national debt by nearly $200 billion. The timing of the termination – days before open enrollment begins – is sowing confusion among consumers and leaving states scrambling to develop solutions to stabilize their insurance markets.

Stabilizing insurance markets is one of the primary areas where Congress can take action to ensure that consumers have affordable health care options. As governors, we deal with the real-life impacts of actions taken in Washington, DC. With heightened uncertainty at the federal level, many of our states have worked hard to ensure that every part of each of our states has insurers willing to offer plans on the individual market. We have explored, designed, and implemented programs to help keep costs from spiraling out of control.

That is why Congress should, at a minimum, fund cost-sharing reduction payments through 2019.

We urge Congress to work with states to make reforms that will preserve and expand gains in coverage, while controlling costs for consumers. Earlier this year, Governors from both sides laid out a framework to help stabilize the individual markets. We are encouraged that the Senators’ agreement contains many of the elements that Governors identified as important to stabilizing the market, providing choice for consumers and making insurance more affordable.

We look forward to continuing to work with you to improve the American health care system.

Roger DuPuis
Roger DuPuis covers Cumberland County, health care, transportation, distribution, energy and environment. Have a tip or question for him? Email him at rdupuis@cpbj.com.

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