The Republicans are not happy Washington campers. Nothing seems to be going their way, even though they have control of Congress. The recent healthcare vote was a clear signal. The Republicans are tripping over their own political feet. And President Donald Trump’s banter is turning the old Republican guards like John McCain, Mitch McConnell, and Lindsey Graham into raving conservative hell-raisers. But there are some Republican leaders who continue to find ways to get things done in Washington. One of those leaders is Lamar Alexander of Tennessee. Alexander is trying to bring both parties to the healthcare reform party, so Americans can have what most civilized countries around the world already have. And that is a healthcare bill that protects people from going broke if they have a major health issue.
Mr. Alexander is the Chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee. That committee is holding the first of four meetings on September 6th. The goal is to pass a modest but decent healthcare bill that will not turn the Obamacare health care markets upside down in 2018. And there are signs Alexander is making progress. Washington Democratic Senator, Patty Murray, got together with Alexander for a joint press release in August, and that kind of cooperation is not standard procedure in a town where family political feuds are as common as tiny marshmallows are in a box of Lucky Charms. Before that press conference, Democratic support for any kind of new healthcare bill was not in the Congressional cards.
Murray and Alexander are not shooting for the moon when it comes to getting bilateral support for healthcare reform. The Senators just want to take the first step and stabilize Obamacare, so insurance companies will not pull the plug on millions of people who need the plan.
But the committee has to move fast if they want to succeed. Insurance companies must sign contracts with Affordable Care Act exchanges by September 27th. All prices and health plans are set in stone for 2018 by that date. Alexander wants to get Congress to commit to funding cost-sharing subsidies before Trump ends the payments. Trump is threatening to end the program unless a new healthcare bill is in place. The first committee meeting will include testimony from insurance commissioners from four states, and the next meeting will include testimony from four state governors. Those governors have their own plans, and they want the committee to use some of the ideas in those plans.