KING 5’s Natalie Brand reports.
Senators Patty Murray, D-Washington, and Lamar Alexander, R-Tennessee, are back at the negotiating table to try and salvage bipartisan health care talks after the latest GOP repeal effort failed this week.
“We were very close to a consensus legislation a few weeks ago,” Senator Murray told KING 5. “We’ll start talking today about the prospects of getting that put back together and what his goals are and how we can meet that in a timely fashion.”
The Alexander-Murray health care hearings that launched earlier this month through the Senate HELP Committee were mentioned countless times this week by colleagues fighting the Graham-Cassidy bill.
A bipartisan group of governors had also urged lawmakers to return to a bipartisan approach, citing this month’s hearings.
Senator Murray says she and Senator Alexander have been focusing specifically on measures to shore up stability of the individual health insurance market, which has seen rising rates, fewer options and uncertainty heading into the next enrollment period.
Related: Washington State insurers propose 2018 rate increases earlier this summer
“We’re not taking on every big issue in front of health care today,” said Senator Murray. “We’re looking at the short-term stability of the marketplace.”
While a timeline of potential legislative action is unknown, Senator Murray expressed optimism something can get done quickly.
“I’m at the table, I’m ready to go. If our Republican partners come in with that same short term goal in mind, I believe we can get something done,” said Senator Murray.
While Senator Alexander said in a statement he would have voted for the Graham-Cassidy proposal, he still believes Congress to separately work to slow premium increases over the next couple of years.
“I will consult with Senator Murray and with other senators, both Republicans and Democrats, to see if senators can find consensus on a limited bipartisan plan that could be enacted into law to help lower premiums and make insurance available to the 18 million Americans in the individual market in 2018 and 2019,” Alexander said in a statement.
Meanwhile President Trump hinted that he may be willing to work with Democrats on a bipartisan bill in comings months.
“I would welcome him to do that by starting with telling insurance companies that the CSR payments are not going to be used as a political football to make people’s healthcare costs go up and sabotage Obamacare,” said Senator Murray, referencing ACA subsidies known as cost-sharing reductions. “If he did that, that would be a very big step forward to assure us that he really meant it.”
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