Governors Ask Congress to Consider Their Affordable Care Act Fixes

WASHINGTON (CN) – A bipartisan group of eight governors on Thursday released a letter they sent to congressional leadership recommending fixes to the Affordable Care Act.

The letter comes just days before Congress returns from its annual August recess and a week before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee is scheduled to hold its first public hearing seeking suggestions on reforms to the insurance market.

“As Congress considers reforms to strengthen our nation’s health insurance system, we ask you to take immediate steps to make coverage more stable and affordable,” the seven-page letter states. “The current state of our individual market is unsustainable and we can all agree this is a problem that needs to be fixed.”

The governors call for Congress to craft a plan for “immediate federal action” on the insurance markets, though they ask that it not shift costs to states or cut funding for mental health treatment or programs for the poor.

The plan includes leaving the requirement that most individuals buy health insurance in place “for now,” while also specifically setting aside money to make sure the federal government continues making federal cost sharing payments, which President Donald Trump has threatened to cut off.

The governors also suggest Congress consider easing the process for states to receive waivers for certain provisions of the Affordable Care Act. They say this would allow states to experiment with tweaks to some of the law’s provisions, such as those detailing what every insurance plan sold on the individual market must cover.

The idea of streamlining the waiver process for states was included in the Republican plan to replace the Affordable Care Act, though that bill also would have repealed the individual mandate in favor of a provision preventing people from buying health insurance for six months if they did not maintain continuous coverage.

Ohio Gov. John Kasich, a Republican, and Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, a Democrat, are the top two names to sign the letter and were both vocal opponents of the Republican plan to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act that failed in the Senate last month.

Nevada Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval also signed the letter, as did Alaska Gov. Bill Walker, who ran his most recent race as an Independent but who was a Republican until 2014.  The other four governors, Pennsylvania’s Tom Wolf, Virginia’s Terry McAuliffe, Louisiana’s John Bel Edwards and Montana’s Steve Bullock, are Democrats.

The last effort at health care reform devolved into a bitterly partisan fight in July, with the final plan Republicans attempted to pass having no Democratic support or input. After Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., cast a dramatic and decisive vote killing the final version of the bill in July, both Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., suggested the effort moving forward should be more bipartisan.

In the letter, which was sent to Speaker of the House Paul Ryan and House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi in addition to McConnell and Schumer, the governors suggest that a bipartisan bill is the only one that will improve the health care system.

“Lasting solutions will need support from both sides of the aisle and we applaud the bipartisan efforts that have now commenced in both the House and Senate,” the letter states. “We ask that you support these efforts to return to regular order, allow committees to work in an open, transparent and bipartisan manner.”

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