A key member of Senate leadership and the White House are viewing a plan to replace Obamacare's subsidies to insurers with some trepidation.
The insurance industry is touting an idea to fund health savings accounts for low-income Obamacare customers with the money that currently is used to reimburse insurers for reducing the co-pays and deductibles for those consumers, according to Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-La.
But the idea was viewed with some skepticism on Capitol Hill, including by Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., a member of Senate leadership.
"I suspect there are going to be cases where HSAs probably aren't going to work for certain populations," Thune said Wednesday. The insurers' cost-sharing subsidies "are probably still going to be in the conversation."
A White House source didn't endorse the idea but was willing to hear Cassidy out.
"We are always willing to hear about the priorities and ideas of members of the Senate, but we have nothing to say on this specific proposal at this time," the source told the Washington Examiner.
Cassidy said the idea was being touted by the insurance industry, which has been urging the White House to decide if it will pay the insurers the subsidies next year.
While the monthly payments are continuing for now, the White House hasn't said if it will commit to them in 2018.
Insurers have said that if they don't get the CSRs next year or for the rest of 2017, they could flee the exchanges or jack up prices. Under Obamacare, insurers are required to lower co-pays and deductibles for low-income customers, but say that it financially untenable without federal reimbursement.
Last year, the Obama administration paid out $7 billion in cost-sharing reimbursements.
Complicating matters is a lawsuit filed by the House a few years ago against the Obama administration over the payments. The House argued that the payments were illegal because they weren't appropriated by Congress.
A federal judge agreed last year, but stayed her ruling until appeals are exhausted. While the Obama administration had appealed the ruling, President Trump hasn't decided how to handle it.
Trump Attorney General Jeff Sessions has said he considers the payments to be unconstitutional.
A status report on the lawsuit is due May 22 and could shed light on the next steps.
Senators say they are aware of a need to prop up the 2018 individual insurance market used by people who don't have insurance through work. A working group of more than a dozen Republicans is discussing whether to create a short-term bill to shore up the market, which houses Obamacare's exchanges.
"Obviously, we want to put long-term reforms in place to move us in a different direction than Obamacare has taken us," Thune said. "We know there is going to have to be a transition."