‘Breakthrough’ Reached On Short Term Health Care Fix

By Shaun Boyd

DENVER (CBS4) – Two key senators say they’ve reached a breakthrough deal on a short term health care fix.

Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee and Democratic Sen. Patty Murray of Washington State hashed out the deal after weeks of hearings by the Senate Health Committee, and it included plenty of input from Colorado.

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Sen. Michael Bennet, a Democrat and Colorado’s senior senator, is a member of the committee and Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper was among those asked to testify.

They warned the president against cutting subsidies that help insurers cover low income Coloradans. The bipartisan bill restores the subsidies for two years.

“It’s important to understand this is a self-inflicted wound,” said Bennet. “This was not something that ‘Obamacare’ caused. This was caused by the president. .. and now we are in a bipartisan way putting it back together again.”

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The goal of the bill is to stabilize the health insurance market.

In Colorado, 14 counties have one insurer left on the exchange and premiums are expected to jump nearly 30 percent next year.

Bennet says the bill also gives states more flexibility on some Obamacare mandates.

“It creates less bureaucracy and gives states the opportunity to innovate without compromising the essential health benefits,” he said.

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Republicans have been pushing for more state control but, so far, Republican leadership has not indicated whether it will support the bill.

“The important thing is not that Senator Murray and I agree but that we find consensus with colleagues so we can enact it,” Alexander said.

President Donald Trump says he was involved in the compromise, but called it a short-term fix, saying Obamacare is dead.

“It’s a concept that doesn’t work and we are very close. We feel we have the votes,” he said.

The bill also includes millions of dollars to help enroll people in Obamacare.

What remains to be seen is whether the so-called Freedom Caucus in the House will get behind the bill. The ultra-conservative Republicans have opposed the subsidies, calling them bailouts for insurers.

Shaun Boyd is CBS4’s political specialist. She’s a veteran reporter with more than 25 years of experience. Follow her on Twitter @cbs4shaun.

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