WASHINGTON (Reuters)—On Tuesday, two U.S. senators announced a bipartisan breakthrough to shore up Obamacare for two years by reviving federal subsidies for health insurers that President Donald Trump planned to scrap, and the president voiced support for the plan.
The agreement worked out by Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) would meet some Democratic objectives, including a revival of the subsidies for Obamacare and restoring $106 million in funding for a federal program that helps people enroll in insurance plans.
In exchange, Republicans would get more flexibility for states to offer a wider variety of health insurance plans while maintaining the requirement that sick and healthy people be charged the same rates for coverage.
The Trump administration said last week it would stop paying billions of dollars to insurers to help low-income Americans pay medical expenses, part of the Republican president’s effort to dismantle Obamacare, former Democratic President Barack Obama’s signature healthcare law.
“We are ironing out a few of the last details right now but I am very optimistic that we will be able to make an announcement with all the details very soon,” Murray told reporters.
“This takes care of the next two years. After that, we can have a full-fledged debate on where we go long-term on healthcare,” Alexander said.
“This is a small step. I’d like to undersell it, not oversell it,” added Alexander, who said he hoped to have “a significant number” of senators from both parties as co-sponsors of the plan.
It is unclear whether the agreement can make it through the Senate and House of Representatives, both controlled by the Republicans. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (R-N.Y.), the top Senate Democrat, called on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) to bring the plan to a vote on the Senate floor and urged the House to take it up after that as quickly as possible so Trump can sign it.
Trump, who campaigned for president last year on a pledge to repeal Obamacare, said on Tuesday the 2010 law, formally known as the Affordable Care Act, was a “disaster” and “virtually dead.” He has been frustrated by the failure of Congress to dismantle the law.
But speaking to reporters at the White House, Trump suggested he could get behind the plan for a short-term fix that Alexander and Murray had settled on.
He said it would help get Obamacare through a “very dangerous little period.” But he added he was still committed to a broader overhaul of the program.