Democratic Sen. Patty Murray bashed Senate Republicans' decision to include a repeal of Obamacare’s individual mandate in their tax legislation, but stopped short of opposing a bipartisan deal to stabilize the law’s markets.
Senate leadership announced Tuesday that they will include repealing the mandate and will take up a deal to stabilize Obamacare exchanges created by Murray and Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn. Murray said that the decision to include repeal was “stunning” and would hurt marketplaces.
But when asked if she would oppose the Alexander-Murray deal now because of the decision to include repeal, the Washington state Democrat was ambivalent.
“I am really hopeful we don’t go down that path,” Murray said. “That is the exact opposite of what we should be doing.”
Murray said that getting rid of the individual mandate, which forces all Americans to have health insurance or pay a penalty, will disrupt the marketplaces and cause people to pay more.
“Americans have spoken up loudly saying they do not want the markets to be destabilized and that provision they are talking about will really destabilize the marketplaces,” she said.
Alexander and Murray last month released their legislation that would fund Obamacare insurer payments for two years in exchange for more flexibility for states to waive the law’s regulations. However, the bill has gone nowhere in the Senate because of opposition from President Trump and House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis.
Trump and conservative Republicans labeled the payments as “bailouts,” even though they reimburse insurers for an Obamacare requirement to reduce copays and deductibles for low-income Obamacare exchange customers. Without those payments, insurers have raised prices, which will go up to 39 percent next year to recoup the costs.
The bill has 12 Republican co-sponsors and all Democrats are expected to support it, meaning it has the 60 votes needed to kill a filibuster. But McConnell has yet to bring it up because of the opposition from Ryan and Trump.
“We should pass the Alexander-Murray compromise," Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said. "I believe we have plenty of opportunities to do that" in other bills, such as the spending bill that has to be passed next month.
"We don't need to trade it for a tax bill and we won't," the New York senator said.
A key requirement to get Trump’s support has been relief from both the individual and employer mandates.
The bill likely could have a lot of opposition from House Republicans.
“Alexander-Murray is toxic. Congress should not subsidize health insurance companies,” tweeted Rep. Warren Davidson, R-Ohio.
Alexander-Murray is toxic. Congress should not subsidize health insurance companies. If true, epic failure by @SenateGOP to honor years of promises made... Instead, pass HR372, end antitrust exemptions, and make them compete. #DeedsNotWords https://t.co/WRxn973hRm— Warren Davidson (@WarrenDavidson) November 14, 2017
The promise to take up Alexander-Murray in the Senate alongside the tax package appears to be aimed at reluctant centrists who are worried about the impact of killing the mandate.
Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, a key centrist, told reporters Tuesday she was concerned about repealing the mandate without Alexander-Murray for that reason.