Baker And Warren On Same Page At Health Care Hearing

The state’s senior Democratic senator and Republican governor tag-teamed Thursday to poke holes in President Donald Trump’s threats to undermine Obamacare by pulling back on federal funding that insurance companies use to lower out-of-pocket expenses for customers.

Gov. Charlie Baker joined four other governors, including Democrats and Republicans, to testify Thursday before the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions on ways to stabilize the individual insurance market in the wake of the failure of ACA repeal. They appeared before the panel for more than three hours.

The governors broadly agreed that cost sharing reductions payments, made by the federal government to insurers to keep co-pays and deductibles low, should be guaranteed in the short-term to provide market certainty and head off price spikes.

Warren, a stalwart liberal who came out in support of Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders’ “Medicaid for All” bill, played off Baker to challenge Trump’s posturing on CSR payments, which he could cut to further undermine the Affordable Care Act.

“If the president’s threat to cut cost sharing makes no sense financially either for the federal government, or for the states, or for the families, can you think of any policy justification for threatening to blow up the health insurance marketplaces in Massachusetts and around the country by deliberately driving up costs in this way?” Warren asked Baker in a rare public back-and-forth between between the state’s leading politicians.

Baker responded, “I think it would be a bad idea.”

Baker testified that Congress should appropriate money to cover CSR payments for at least the next two years to give insurers who are working to set rates for 2018 and 2019 some certainty as to the funding that will be available while longer term cost controls are debated.

Tennessee Sen. Lamar Alexander said he hopes to present a bipartisan plan to stabilize the individual health insurance market to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Minority Leader Charles Schumer within the next 10 days, and supports a CSR guarantee for at least 2018.


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