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Democrats Block up to 40% Reduction in Health Insurance Premiums

Bill would have helped 9 million Americans who receive no government subsidy

WASHINGTON, March 23, 2018Democrats today blocked legislation that its Republican sponsors said would lower health insurance premiums by up to 40 percent for self-employed business people, plumbers, farmers, and songwriters who buy individual insurance without a government subsidy.


“They are going to have a hard time explaining to working Americans who make $60,000 and pay $20,000 for insurance why they blocked cuts to premiums of $8000 over three years,” Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) said, citing an analysis by the Oliver Wyman health care consulting firm.


Democrats said they blocked the bill because it included Hyde language that prohibits federal funding for elective abortions. Alexander said this was a “phony excuse because Democrats voted today in the Omnibus appropriations bill to apply Hyde language to more than 100 other federal health care programs. Democrats are scrambling to explain why they blocked  legislation based on two bipartisan bills to reduce individual health insurance rates by up to 40%. Democrats are objecting to the same Hyde language that they’ve voted for in  appropriations bills every year since 1976.”   


The legislation to reduce rates was sponsored by Senate health committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), Aging Committee Chairman Susan Collins (R-Maine), House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Greg Walden (R-Ore.) and Rep. Ryan Costello (R-Pa.) and was based on two bipartisan proposals developed after months of bipartisan negotiations, hearings and roundtables. It was supported by President Trump, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, and Speaker Paul Ryan. The Congressional Budget Office said the proposal will not add to the federal debt if scoring is based on real spending.


Senator Patty Murray (D-Wash.) blocked the bill when Sen. Collins moved to add the proposal to the Omnibus spending bill.


“Our health insurance proposal—which would lower health insurance premiums in the individual market by up to 40 percent—should have been included in the Omnibus because the stakes are so high for millions of Americans,” said Senator Susan Collins. “Congress’ failure to act means that insurance rates will skyrocket this fall, exacerbating the premium spikes and market instability that we have already seen. Make no mistake about the stakes here. Americans expect us to come together to provide real relief from the rising cost of health insurance, and this was our last opportunity to prevent these significant rate hikes from taking effect. It is incredibly disappointing that Democrats have stymied making health insurance more affordable for millions of Americans.”


“I'm very disappointed democrats continue to play politics with a proposal that would result in lower health insurance premiums for low and middle incomes families in Pennsylvania and across the country. I will continue to work with my colleagues to push for these reforms to be enacted. Access to affordable and quality healthcare is too important,” said Representative Ryan Costello.


Health care experts at management consulting firm Oliver Wyman released an analysis last week showing that the passage of the proposal to fund CSRs for three years, and provide $10 billion annually for invisible risk pool/reinsurance funding in 2019, 2020, and 2021, will lower premiums, compared to what people in the individual market will pay if Congress doesn’t act, by up to 40 percent in the individual market and provide insurance coverage to an additional 3.2 million individuals. The analysis also factored in increased flexibility for states that seek to use waivers under Section 1332 of the Affordable Care Act., and applies to ACA-compliant plans in the individual market, both on and off the exchange.


Click here to read the proposal.