A bipartisan measure to stabilize the U.S. health insurance markets would save the government money, but do little to cut the cost of premiums for consumers or substantially change the number of people who have insurance to help pay their medical bills, a new independent study concluded Wednesday.
With Republican efforts stalled in Congress to dismantle national health policies championed by former President Barack Obama, two senators, Republican Lamar Alexander and Democrat Patty Murray, reached an accord to keep markets for individual insurance buyers from collapsing.
Good news, bad news
In the new analysis, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) said the compromise crafted by Alexander and Murray would cut the government’s deficit by $3.8 billion over the next decade, but “would not substantially change the number of people with health insurance coverage.” The CBO earlier said the Republican replacement plans would have cut 20 million or more people from insurance rolls.
While there is bipartisan support for the Alexander-Murray compromise in the Senate, Republican leaders who control the congressional legislative agenda have yet to commit that there will be a vote on it. Republicans have tried dozens of times over the past seven years, all unsuccessfully, to repeal the Affordable Care Act, popularly known as Obamacare. Their latest attempts to undermine the law failed in several key votes earlier this year.
However, key legislative leaders say the Alexander-Murray health care changes could be added to other measures that lawmakers will be debating as current government funding expires in early December.
President Donald Trump has voiced some support for the Alexander-Murray pact, but said he wants other changes to curb payments to insurance companies as compensation for their providing lower-cost policies to poorer Americans.
About 20 million people who previously had no health insurance have gained coverage under Obamacare, but Republicans have long viewed the law as government overreach, chiefly because it requires virtually all Americans to buy insurance or pay a fine if they do not.
Most American workers get their health insurance coverage through their employers, while the government pays for much of the coverage for older and poorer people.
Individuals who buy their own insurance are most affected by the debate over the fate of Obamacare.