Alexander: Democrats Scrambling to Explain Why They Just Blocked Bill to Lower Premiums Up to 40%

Posted on March 22, 2018

Click here to watch Senator Alexander’s floor speech.

“Today Democrats are voting in the Omnibus appropriations bill to apply the Hyde language to more than 100 other federal health programs while saying they can’t apply Hyde to health insurance.” – Lamar Alexander 

WASHINGTON, March 22, 2018 – United States Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) said today that Senate Democrats’ are “scrambling and coming up with excuse after excuse” after blocking an up to 40 percent health insurance rate decrease.

Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) objected when Sen. Collins moved to add the proposal to the Omnibus spending bill that the House passed today. Over the weekend President Trump asked Speaker Ryan and Senate Leader McConnell to add it to the Omnibus bill but Democrats objected.

“They are going to have a hard time explaining to the Tennessee farmer or plumber or songwriter who makes $60,000 and pays $20,000 for insurance why they blocked cuts to his or her premiums of $8,000 over three years,” Alexander said.

Democrats, who have voted for traditional Hyde restrictions in the appropriations process every year since 1976, said they blocked the legislation because traditional Hyde restrictions applied.

“This is a phony excuse. Today Democrats are voting in the Omnibus appropriations bill to apply the Hyde language to more than 100 other federal health programs while saying they can’t apply Hyde to health insurance. They have applied that language every year since 1976 to programs including the National Institutes of Health, Federal Employee Health Benefit Program, Community Health Centers, Title X planning grants, maternal and child health blocks grants, among many others.

The rate reduction proposal blocked by Democrats—and estimated by the Oliver Wyman firm to reduce rates by up to 40 percent next year—was proposed by Alexander, with Senator Susan Collins (R-Maine), House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Greg Walden (R-Ore.) and Representative Ryan Costello (R-Pa.), based on bipartisan proposals developed after four senate hearings and four roundtables that involved more than half the senators.

“Senators were running around in the fall talking about what a great thing our bipartisan cooperation on health insurance was. The Senate Democratic leader said every Democrat would vote for the original Alexander-Murray proposal, which is two thirds of this proposal. Then we added three years of reinsurance at $10 billion a year which virtually everyone supports,” Alexander said. “President Trump, Speaker Ryan and Sen. McConnell were all ready to put it into law this week so that rates announced on October 1 will go down instead of up. And suddenly Democrats decide that they can’t apply the Hyde language that has applied to every appropriations bill since 1976.”

Health care experts at management consulting firm Oliver Wyman released an analysis this week comparing this proposal to what people in the individual market will pay if Congress doesn’t act. The analysis showed that this package would reduce premiums by up to 40 percent in the individual market for states that obtain a Section 1332 Affordable Care Act waiver and would provide insurance coverage to an additional 3.2 million individuals. The analysis assumes states would take advantage of increased flexibility using state innovation waivers and applies in the individual health insurance market on and off the exchange.

Nonpartisan analysis by the Congressional Budget Office found premiums would be 10 percent lower nationwide on average next year, 20 percent lower on average for the estimated 60 percent of the population that lives in states that are projected to obtain 1332 waivers in 2020, and 20 percent lower on average for the 80 percent of the population that lives in states that are projected to obtain waivers in 2021.

Click here for details on the proposal.

Click here for the text of the proposed legislation.

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