While the vast majority of Americans get their health insurance through employer-sponsored plans, those on the individual market have seen both the good and bad in the marketplaces set up by the Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare.
Many have received more affordable coverage. For others, rates are up, often significantly in many states. The new administration of President Donald Trump has moved to cut off some subsidies for lower-income marketplace customers. Uncertainty has been bad for insurance companies as much as customers on the marketplaces.
But now, with Republican efforts having failed to completely repeal President Barack Obama's signature achievement, the time has come for what the U.S. Congress ought to look at as a perhaps ugly but necessary compromise.
Two leading senators have proposed their bipartisan deal for steadying health insurance markets. The measure by U.S. Sens. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., and Patty Murray, D-Wash., has 24 sponsors, half Republicans and half Democrats, but one name is missing from the team: Trump.
The president has sent mixed signals about the plan, but we encourage him to reconsider. To strike the subsidies by executive action, when insurance companies acted in good faith to extend them to qualified buyers, appears petulant after the Senate failed to act on GOP alternatives.
It's not at all a Democratic measure: The Alexander bill includes provisions that give states much more flexibility in insurance markets, something that the GOP has generally sought.
An informed critic of Obamacare is U.S. Sen. Bill Cassidy, of Louisiana. The Republican lawmaker still would prefer his own more far-reaching plan that might one day be on the table. But he seems reconciled to a "short-term fix" while bigger plans are afoot.
Let's face it, health care is such an enormous topic that it will likely take a year or more for hearings and negotiations among all the interested parties to agree upon a big health bill. In the meantime, this short-term fix deals with a specific problem for customers.
We regret Trump's ill-considered attack on the "bailout" of the companies, who acted in good faith, in accord with the general thrust of the 2010 law. To withdraw aid from the customers who are now getting it would be a contradiction of the president's promises of better health care.
The Alexander bill reflects a bipartisan desire to ensure consumers, not the companies, are protected from the potentially large rate increases stemming from Trump's decision to cut off the federal payments — which in fact have run into legal trouble, but are nevertheless providing insurance to people who might not otherwise afford it.
We urge senators, as well as the president, to follow Alexander's lead.
Get Bill Cassidy going on the technicalities of medical care in this country, and he’ll talk…