Haslam: Health care costs not 'sustainable'

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MA joins 23 states that have begun steps towards getting a waiver, seven that have applied and two that have gotten waivers, according to Senate committee Chairman Lamar Alexander.

"We were very specific to make sure that those essential health benefits, those guard rails, should be maintained", he said.

It's a big ask. Tennessee Senator Lamar Alexander, who chairs the committee, and Washington Senator Patty Murray, the ranking Democrat, arranged the panels after GOP efforts to repeal and replace Obamacare stalled in late July.

"The current debate in Washington about health care reform has destabilized the insurance market; carriers have responded by leaving some markets altogether or proposing to markedly increase rates to adjust for the uncertainty", Baker said in written testimony submitted to the committee ahead of Thursday's hearing.

All of the governors and most of the senators in the room agreed that the top priority was for Congress to appropriate money for what are called cost-sharing reductions. They say those changes would help prop-up insurance exchanges for now.

Although the Trump administration has made the payments on a monthly basis, it has repeatedly threatened to cut them off.

A drop in funding will "definitely damper" their ability to do similar outreach this year, said Dizzy Warren, Enroll Michigan's executive director.

Baker opposed Republican plans to repeal and replace Obamacare at every turn this year, objecting, among other reasons, to the potential loss of hundreds of millions of dollars in federal Medicaid support for MA. They would be hard-pressed to appropriate money to fund it without some substantive changes.

But a clearly frustrated Alexander said at the end of Thursday's hearing that he couldn't pass that kind of bill. "And so if you want to tell us exactly what those are, and we got it by the middle of next week, we could use it and it would help us get a result".

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The chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee says both parties must be willing to compromise to achieve a deal that would strengthening the country's individual health insurance markets. To please Republicans, he has been pushing a plan to give states more flexibility to set up "reinsurance" pools that would help bring down premiums by limiting insurer exposure for the most expensive patients.

In an effort to control health care costs, a group of Republican and Democratic governors have endorsed the continuation of key ObamaCare subsidies.

Bill Haslam of Tennessee, Charlie Baker of MA and Gary Herbert of Utah - agreed on three steps the federal government can take to stabilize an insurance market where Coloradans will see average premium increases of 26.7 percent in 2018.

Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., said he was concerned that giving too much flexibility would diminish the quality of the insurance policies.

"However, even in our state, it was a challenge to adapt to the overly strict federal framework of the ACA", testified Republican Gov. Charlie Baker of MA, which paved the way for Obamacare with its state-level reforms.

"There's an assumption from the federal government, that's a little offensive to be honest, that 'you won't care for the least of these unless we tell you exactly how to do it, ' " he said.

Previously, he and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell had excluded Democrats from the process as they attempted to repeal the Affordable Care Act.

Alexander said he wants a bipartisan bill produced by the end of next week.

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