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Our View: A bipartisan deal on health care

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Rocky Mount Telegram

Sunday, October 22, 2017

It is indeed encouraging to see a bipartisan plan to resume federal reimbursement payments to health insurance companies appear to have strong support in the U.S. Senate.

The measure negotiated by U.S. Sens. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., and Patty Murray, D- Wash., has 12 Republican and 12 Democratic co-sponsors. The agreement extends the payments for two years, gives states additional flexibility under the Affordable Care Act and allows consumers of any age to buy low-cost catastrophic coverage plans.

President Donald Trump halted the reimbrusement payments nearly two weeks ago, incorrectly labeling them as “bailouts” to insurance companies. The payments are required under the Affordable Care Act to reimburse insurance companies for the law’s mandate that they reduce out-of-pocket medical costs for low- and middle-income customers. Those payments, which will come to about $7 billion this year, help more than 6 million people pay insurance deductibles and co-payments.

Uncertainty over the fate of the payments under the Trump Administration already had prompted many insurance companies to raise their rates in anticipation of having to absorb those costs. Trump’s move to end the payments has led many insurers to hike their rates and is threatening to chase more insurance companies out of  health care markets across the country.

While it is a welcome sign to see senators reach across the aisle to find a compromise solution to a pressing problem, the Alexander-Murray plan faces an uncertain future in the U.S. House, where House Speaker Paul Ryan and many of his fellow Republicans oppose the measure. And Trump’s position on the bipartisan deal has been confusing, with the president  alternately praising and condemning the measure in the past week.

More than 350,000 people in North Carolina benefited this year from the federal reimbursement payments. The Alexander-Murray plan is a welcome, common-sense step for restoring those payments and the benefits they provide.

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