Senate health panel to hold hearings on stabilizing ACA markets

Sen. Lamar Alexander (L) and Sen. Tom Harkin attend a hearing of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. Tuesday, Alexander said the panel will hold two hearings next month on stabilizing the ACA health exchange markets. File Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI

Aug. 23 (UPI) — The Senate health committee will hold two bipartisan hearings on how to stabilize the individual health insurance marketplace early next month, following Republicans’ failure to repeal or replace the Affordable Care Act.

State insurance commissioners will testify before the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions on Sept. 6, while governors will appear before the panel the following day.

In the latest Republican-led ACA action, the House Freedom Caucus said it filed a petition on Friday allowing legislators to vote on a repeal of former President Barack Obama‘s signature healthcare law, also called Obamacare.

The repeal-only procedural move would circumvent House leadership and bring the measure to a vote — forcing House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., to bring up the issue on the House floor.

The Senate voted last month against a repeal-only bill as an amendment.

Senate health committee Chairman Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., said Tuesday he wants to find out how Americans can gain proper health insurance at a reasonable price by next year.

“My goal by the end of September is to give them peace of mind that they will be able to buy insurance at a reasonable price for the year 2018,” Alexander said in a statement. “Unless Congress acts by September 27 — when insurance companies must sign contracts with the federal government to sell insurance on the federal exchange in 2018 — nine million Americans in the individual market who receive no government help purchasing health insurance and whose premiums have already skyrocketed may see their premiums go up even more.”

The bipartisan Congressional Budget Office has repeatedly analyzed proposals drafted by Republicans to repeal and replace the ACA, and each report showed the bills would leave tens of millions of Americans without insurance — compared to the ACA — if they became law.

Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., the panel’s ranking member, said next month’s hearings will help establish bipartisan agreement on how to tackle the U.S. healthcare debate.

“It is clearer than ever that the path to continue making health care work better for patients and families isn’t through partisanship or backroom deals. It is through working across the aisle, transparency, and coming together to find common ground where we can,” Murray said. “Through these and other planned public hearings, we have the critical opportunity to work together toward an agreement by the end of September to help prevent millions of patients and families from paying more for the care they need next year.”


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