For the first time in perhaps a decade, Republicans and Democrats are working together to fashion legislation to improve health care, notwithstanding President Trump’s efforts to create chaos around the Affordable Care Act.
Republicans engaged in this worthy effort to save health insurance for millions should be praised and encouraged, in particular Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, who is the influential chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.
Also commendable is the work of Rep. Tom Reed, R-Corning, co-chairman of the Problem Solvers Caucus, which is split roughly evenly between the two parties. Rep. Chris Collins, R-Clarence, an ardent supporter of the president, should join them.
Health care for millions of Americans is entering crisis territory. The president’s words and threats to cut off critical payments to health insurers could be the trigger taking insurance away from many. He needs to listen to Alexander and the Republicans who have sensibly decided to ignore the president’s rhetoric about allowing the health care legislation known as Obamacare to implode.
Alexander has publicly implored the president to continue making payments to health insurance companies to pay some of the costs of insuring low-income people and others.
Republicans Reed and Charlie Dent of Pennsylvania have done something that a short time ago would have been inconceivable in this political era. Following repeated failed efforts by their party to repeal Obamacare, they have joined with Democrats to promote health legislation that would fund the cost-sharing subsidies, which reimburse insurers for cutting deductibles and other out-of-pocket expenses.
If this does not work or, worse, Trump follows through on his threat to end those cost-sharing payments, anyone buying plans on the individual insurance market will face the prospect of enormous price hikes. This is a disaster scenario for millions of Americans. Preventing it requires Republicans to set politics aside in order to serve their constituents.
The Problem Solvers Caucus has offered proposals to strengthen the individual markets while providing relief to some businesses.
Alexander wants the president to approve cost-sharing payments for August and September while allowing Congress to approve “in a bipartisan way” a continuation of the payments for at least a year.
There’s a long way to go before any of this becomes law, but just talk by Republicans of shoring up Obamacare is progress. Trump should be able to understand the art of this deal.