WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady (R-Texas) and Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) announced a bicameral agreement to pair concrete, structural Obamacare reforms with a temporary two-year funding extension for the health law’s cost-sharing reduction (CSR) program. This would provide Americans with more certainty and choice.
“Millions of families in Texas and across the country still trapped in Obamacare are desperately looking for relief – not a reinforcement of today’s failed status quo,” Brady said. “What we’re proposing not only helps treat some of Obamacare’s symptoms – rising premiums, fewer choices, and uncertainty and instability. It takes steps to cure Obamacare’s underlying illness through patient-centered reforms that deliver relief from federal mandates, protect life, and increase choices in health care. It also empowers individuals and families to save and spend their health care dollars the way they want and need by expanding and enhancing a popular, tax-advantaged savings tool known as health savings accounts. These are the types of real reforms that must be included as part of Congress acting to temporarily and legally appropriate funds for cost-sharing reduction payments.”
“As I have said all along, if Congress is going to appropriate funds for CSRs, we must include meaningful structural reforms that provide Americans relief from Obamacare,” Hatch said. “This agreement addresses some of the most egregious aspects of Obamacare – delaying Obamacare’s individual and employer mandates so consumers and employers won’t be penalized for purchasing health care they don’t like and can’t afford and expanding tax-free Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) to allow Americans to save more of their hard-earned income for health costs. It also provides much-needed certainty for the individual market in the near term as Congress continues to debate an alternative to the law. This proposal should be part of any discussion about what to do to provide Americans relief from Obamacare.”
The agreement, in principle, would fund CSRs if structural reforms to Obamacare are incorporated. It includes:
- Funding for CSRs through 2019, with pro-life protections. For 2018, carriers must meet certain conditions to receive CSRs. These conditions would be determined in consultation with the Secretaries of Treasury and Health and Human Services to prevent “double dipping.”
- Relief from the individual mandate from 2017-2021. This timeframe should produce enough savings to cover the cost of providing relief from the employer mandate and the HSA expansion policy.
- Relief from the employer mandate from 2015-2017. Employers would be exempt from penalties if they did not provide coverage based on requirements of the mandate.
- Expansion of HSAs to increase the maximum contribution limit.
Full legislative language will be released in the coming days.
The proposed agreement, crafted by the leaders of the House and Senate committees with jurisdiction over Obamacare, can serve as a basis for the types of real reforms Congress should look to include to relieve Americans from Obamacare’s worst failures. It addresses policy concerns in both chambers to provide relief from Obamacare and create certainty.
Under the Obama Administration, the Treasury Department made CSR payments without congressional approval. Recently, the Trump Administration announced it would no longer send this money to insurance companies without the Constitutionally-required appropriation from Congress.