Sen. Lamar Alexander’s (R-TN) bipartisan solution for health care faces increasing obstacles as efforts to repeal and replace Obamacare subside.
Alexander serves as the chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) committee; he announced recently that he will start hearings on how to stabilize the health insurance market through insurance bailouts and subsidies. The chairman also revealed that he will work with Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA), the ranking member of the HELP committee, as well as the Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and Sen. Ron Wyden to discuss potential solutions.
Sen. Hatch recently admitted that Senate Republicans remain “too divided” to repeal and replace Obamacare.
Sen. Alexander professed that a bipartisan solution has to be simple to get his committee to compromise between its ideological poles. Alexander will have to find a consensus from conservative champion Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) — who wants a full repeal of Obamacare and opposes insurance bailouts — and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), who wants a $32 trillion “Medicare for All” single-payer health care scheme.
“It has to be simple if we are to get a bipartisan agreement by mid-September on an issue that has divided the parties so much,” Alexander explained. Alexander also stated that stabilizing the health insurance markets in the short-term would create breathing room to “tackle bigger issues” on health care.
Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), one of the three senators who tanked the Obamacare repeal in the Senate, said that he had “great faith” that Alexander and other lawmakers can pass a bipartisan health care bill. Alexander also charged that McCain’s endorsement serves as motivation to continue to find bipartisan solutions to health care.
“We have got a fractured country. This is the most important institution for creating a consensus on tough issues like health care, like civil rights, like elementary and secondary education,” Alexander said.
Even if Alexander can pass a bipartisan bill through the Senate HELP committee, then he would have to pass the bill through the Senate, which remains sharply divided on whether to repeal or preserve Obamacare. If the bill were to pass through the upper chamber, then the bill would have to pass through the House, where staunch conservatives from the Freedom Caucus remain committed to repealing Obamacare. Not to mention, health insurers need to finalize their premium rates for the Obamacare state exchanges in the next few weeks and then sign contracts on the agreed rates by the end of September.
Conservatives such as Heritage Action’s Michael Needham remain unconvinced by the establishment’s pleas for bipartisan solutions to health care.
Needham charged, “The Senate’s inability to produce 51 votes for a piece of legislation that delivers on a seven-year campaign promise to repeal and replace Obamacare is not license for a bipartisan bailout of a failing law. Obamacare is becoming a zombie law, and throwing more taxpayer money at Zombiecare is unacceptable.”