A top Republican senator aims to reach a small bipartisan deal to stabilize Obamacare markets for 2018, even though some Democrats are pushing for longer.
Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., laid out his goals for a bipartisan deal to stabilize Obamacare's exchanges by the end of September. The chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee announced that the committee would hold bipartisan hearings on the individual market, which includes Obamacare's exchanges, when Congress returns from its August recess next month.
"I hope to get a consensus about how to stabilize the individual market, keep premiums down, keep insurance companies in the individual market so that people can buy affordable insurance in 2018," he said.
As a result of those discussions, Alexander said he hopes to put out a bill that is "limited, bipartisan and needs to go into effect by the end of September."
The timing is important so that "insurance companies can see it and I expect them to lower prices on a result of the certainty that has been provided."
Some insurers have filed their proposed rates for 2018, but final plans will be approved for healthcare.gov, used by 39 states and the District of Columbia, by the end of September. Individual state-run exchanges may have different deadlines for final plan submissions.
Alexander didn't divulge what could be in the deal. A call for bipartisan hearings emerged last week after the Senate narrowly defeated a "skinny" Obamacare repeal bill aimed at starting talks for a larger bill with the House.
Democrats have called for a commitment to paying the cost-sharing reduction payments to insurers for reducing out-of-pocket costs for low-income Obamacare enrollees.
The Trump administration has yet to make a commitment to the payments for next year, and some states have announced premium increases of as much as 20 percent if the payments aren't made.
Complicating Alexander's effort is that some Democrats want more than just a one-year fix.
"I think it may not be helpful for long-term stability to have just a one-year fix," said Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn.
He was quick to say, though, that the two parties aren't at an impasse over the scope of the bill since talks are just beginning.
"It is a beginning of a discussion," he said.