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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, October 27, 2017 - Volume 45 Issue 43
Alexander-Murray healthcare compromise would reduce premiums and deficit, CBO says
Section One
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Alexander-Murray healthcare compromise would reduce premiums and deficit, CBO says

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

The bipartisan health care compromise brokered by Washington Democrat Patty Murray and Tennessee Republican Lamar Alexander would reduce insurance premiums for consumers and also reduce the federal budget deficit, according to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO).

The Alexander-Murray bill would restore federal funding for CSRs - the 'cost-sharing reduction' payments designed to help keep insurance premiums low - that was eliminated by a Donald Trump executive order.

The compromise would also have allowed discount insurance plans to be sold across state lines, a concession to Republicans.

The CBO is a federal agency that provides statistical analysis to lawmakers. Its 'nonpartisan analysis shows that our bill provides savings and ensures that funding two years of cost-sharing payments will benefit taxpayers and low-income Americans, not insurance companies,' Murray's office said in an October 25 statement.

'CBO has also told us that if CSRs are not paid' - and they will no longer be paid under the terms of Trump's executive order - 'premiums in 2018 will go up an average of 20%; the federal debt will increase by $194 billion over ten years, due to the extra cost of subsidies to pay the higher premiums; and up to 16 million Americans may live in counties where they are not able to buy any insurance in the individual market,' the statement continued.

'On net, CBO and the staff of the Joint Committee on Taxation (JCT) estimate that implementing the legislation would reduce the deficit by $3.8 billion over the 2018-2027 period relative to CBO's baseline,' Murray's office said.

The Alexander-Murray bill was the outcome of weeks of negotiations between the two senators and their staffs, Alexander being the chairman and Murray the ranking member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee.

The compromise measure appeared to be dead when Senate Republicans introduced the Graham-Cassidy bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA, or Obamacare), but it was revived when the Republican measure failed to gather enough support to come up for a vote and Trump resorted to an executive order instead.

Unlike Republican-backed ACA repeal bills, the Alexander-Murray legislation has the support of 12 Republican and 12 Democratic co-sponsors, and it was the subject of four hearings in the Senate HELP committee plus four meetings for senators not on the committee.

'All in all, 60 senators participated in the process,' Murray's office said.

In spite of the likelihood that the bill could actually pass the Senate with bipartisan support, Republican House leaders said they would never bring it up for a vote.

A spokesperson for Republican Speaker Paul Ryan said he had no interest in any legislation that stopped short of a repeal of the ACA.

'The speaker does not see anything that changes his view that the Senate should keep its focus on repeal and replace of Obamacare,' spokesperson Doug Andres told the Reuters news agency.

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