Week ahead: Congress returns to take up bipartisan health care effort

By Jessie Hellman, September 05, 2017

Senatoes Alexander and Murray are shown riding an escalator together

Photo by Greg Nash

Congress will kick off a busy month on health care when it returns from recess Tuesday.

The Senate's Health Committee will hold two hearings in the coming week on a bipartisan healthcare bill, with testimony from governors and state insurance officials on Wednesday and Thursday, in addition to two more hearings the following week.

The goal is to pass a bill by the end of the month to stabilize the insurance markets for 2018.

It's expected the bill would fund key ObamaCare insurer payments, known as cost-sharing reduction subsidies, and make some changes to the law's 1332 waivers for states.

It will be a challenge, however, for Democrats and Republicans to find compromise after seven months of fighting each other over repeal efforts.

If Congress can pass a bill, it would mark the first major bipartisan effort the parties have made on ObamaCare since the law was passed seven years ago.

Lawmakers also face a critical health care deadline.

On Thursday, the Senate's Finance Committee will hold a hearing on reauthorization of the popular Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP).

Funding for the program, which helps 9 million low-and middle income children get insurance, expires at the end of September.

Lawmakers need to hammer out a few details: the duration of the reauthorization, whether any measures will be attached and whether to continue enhanced federal matching funds that were first included in ObamaCare.

That could be a challenge under the timeframe, but those involved say there is a bipartisan commitment to getting the reauthorization passed.

On top of that, Sens. Bill Cassidy (R-La.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C) and Dean Heller (R-Nev.) are trying to gain traction on their ObamaCare repeal plan, which would block grant funding to states.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) has also said that he will introduce his single-payer healthcare bill once Congress returns from recess.

And over in the House, there could be some movement on a long-shot effort led by the conservative House Freedom Caucus to force a vote on ObamaCare repeal.


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