Let’s Stop the Bickering and Fix the Health Care System

Our plan would stabilize markets by making the cost-sharing payments mandatory and thereby prevent rates from rising sharply.

Second, we provide a relief valve to help states deal with the high cost of pre-existing and chronic conditions. The costliest 5 percent of patients account for nearly half of all health care spending in the country. We propose a dedicated stability fund — essentially a form of reinsurance — that states could use to reduce premiums and limit losses for providing coverage for these high-cost patients.

Third, our proposal provides relief to certain businesses from the mandate that they provide insurance to full-time employees. It also defines “full time” as a 40-hour workweek to discourage businesses from manipulating employees’ weekly hours to skirt the mandate. More than 90 percent of large businesses offered health care before the Affordable Care Act, and studies show that they would continue to do so under this change; others would move to find employee coverage in the individual marketplace.

Fourth, our plan eliminates the Medical Device Tax, an excise charge of 2.3 percent that is often passed onto consumers and reduces funds for research and development. And finally, we provide states with additional flexibility to enter into agreements — such as enabling the sale of insurance across state lines — that would provide more choice and lower costs.

This proposal would not increase the federal deficit, offering several options to offset the new spending.

Our plan isn’t intended to rectify everything that’s wrong with American health care. We aim to solve an immediate problem and move past a seven-year stalemate in Washington that has featured Republicans trying to repeal the current health care law, Democrats trying to preserve it and neither side willing to discuss anything in between.

That approach has led us to our current moment, in which no one is happy with the status quo, least of all the American people, whose trust and confidence in Washington weakens every day that we spend fighting instead of solving real problems.

Health care is one of those problems — and a textbook example of why we formed the Problem Solvers Caucus this year. We all knew the partisanship in Washington had gotten out of control and felt the need to create a bipartisan group committed to getting to “yes” on important issues. We have agreed to vote together for any policy proposal that garners the support of 75 percent of the entire Problem Solvers Caucus, as well as 51 percent of both the Democrats and Republicans in the caucus.

If Washington does not act to stabilize the insurance exchanges, many families we represent will lose coverage or be hit with premiums they can’t afford. This isn’t conjecture.

If that does happen, people will be justifiably livid that Republicans and Democrats in Congress did nothing to stop a train wreck we all saw coming.

There is a growing recognition on Capitol Hill that something must be done, as evidenced by this week’s announcement from Senator Lamar Alexander — the Tennessee Republican who is chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee — that he will soon hold hearings focused on repairing the individual insurance market.

Our proposal isn’t perfect, but it represents the first and only serious bipartisan health care proposal released in this Congress. We hope our colleagues in the House and Senate, as well as the White House, will use our plan as the foundation for the health care solution that America desperately needs and deserves.

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