(KMSP / AP) - In a rare bipartisan effort Tuesday, two U.S. senators -- one Republican and one Democrat -- announced a plan to stabilize health insurance markets by reversing a measure from President Trump to roll back subsidies outlined in the Affordable Care Act.
The deal, struck between Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tennessee, and Sen. Patty Murray, D-Washington, would protect these payments for at least two more years, preventing a spiral experts say would cause the price of individual premiums to spike and insurers to leave markets.
As another byproduct of Trump's executive order, Minnesota's basic healthcare program, MinnesotaCare, was also set to lose hundreds of millions of dollars in funding. The cuts would effectively end monthly "cost sharing reduction" payments that help insurance companies reduce costs.
Senators Al Franken and Amy Klobuchar, however, announced that in conjunction with the Alexander-Murray agreement Minnesota would continue to receive this federal funding for MinnesotaCare while maintaining waivers that allow the state to test new ways to deliver healthcare, according to the Department of Health.
MinnesotaCare is a program for low-income Minnesotans who don't already qualify for Medicaid, and is also funded partially by state taxes on hospitals and health care providers.
FULL STATEMENT FROM SEN. KLOBUCHAR
“The agreement that has resulted from the bipartisan discussions led by Senators Alexander and Murray is a good step forward, particularly the provision that would include federal funding for Minnesota's Basic Health Program, MinnesotaCare.
“I worked with both Senator Alexander and Murray to ensure that this important provision was included. The provision will encourage the kind of bipartisan work that was done in Minnesota to allow states to apply for waivers. The provision in the bill allows Minnesota to maintain its waiver while still receiving federal funding for MinnesotaCare.
“What I've heard from people all over Minnesota is that they want bipartisan solutions to fix the Affordable Care Act—and this is part of the solution.
"Over the past couple months I've participated in the bipartisan discussions held by Senators Alexander and Murray on commonsense solutions to bring down costs, including a meeting with both Republican and Democratic governors, but we can and must do more to help middle-class families. It is long past time for Congress to address the skyrocketing costs of prescription drugs—including by passing my bill, which has 33 Senate cosponsors, to lift the ban that makes it illegal for Medicare to negotiate prices for prescription drugs for 41 million American seniors."
FULL STATEMENT FROM SEN. FRANKEN
“I believe that when Congress works in bipartisan way to address real issues, we can do a lot to improve the lives of families in Minnesota and across the country.
“That’s why, when it comes to health care, I’ve fought to pass bills to expand coverage, lower costs, and improve care. But unfortunately, in an attempt to implode our nation’s health care market, the White House blindsided states like Minnesota with policy decisions that will jeopardize coverage for people and send insurance costs through the roof.
"Now more than ever, we need a bipartisan effort to avert the crisis that’s being manufactured by the Trump Administration. That’s why, as this deal was negotiated, I fought to reverse massive financial cuts that the Trump Administration levied on MinnesotaCare, a program that helps working families in our state. It appears that this deal, which I believe is very promising, restores that funding, and I’m hopeful we will be able to come together in Congress and pass legislation to fix the ACA and help Minnesota families.”