Eight US governors on Thursday unveiled a plan to fix the Affordable Care Act, the law also known as Obamacare.
A letter from two Republican governors — John Kasich of Ohio and Brian Sandoval of Nevada — five Democrats, and one independent urged congressional leaders to do everything in their power to help the people on the individual insurance exchanges created by the law and to stabilize the program.
“As Congress considers reforms to strengthen our nation’s health insurance system, we ask you to take immediate steps to make coverage more stable and affordable,” the letter said. “The current state of our individual market is unsustainable and we can all agree this is a problem that needs to be fixed.”
The letter called on the Trump administration to try to make the law work by increasing outreach to get people to sign up for plans.
The governors also suggested a few concrete policy steps. Here’s a quick rundown:
- Fund cost-sharing-reduction payments. CSR payments help to offset the cost to insurers for offering poorer Americans plans with low out-of-pocket costs. These payments have been the subject of a lawsuit under the Obama administration. Trump has repeatedly threatened to cut them off. The governors urged the leaders to fund them for at least two years.
- Create a fund to help states address rising premiums. The governors said they wanted Congress to create a $15 billion-a-year stability fund that would allow states to create programs to lower premiums for people in the exchanges. They also suggested offsetting the move by cutting spending in other areas.
- Exempt insurers from the federal health-insurance tax for plans in underserved counties. The governors’ plan would exempt insurers from the federal tax on plans provided to people in counties with only one insurer on their exchanges. Such a move, they say, would help encourage insurers to enter rural counties that may be in danger of going without coverage on the exchanges.
- Allow people in underserved counties to buy into government benefits. The plan would let people in counties with one insurer on their exchanges buy into the Federal Employee Health Benefits Program. In essence, that would create a so-called public option for underserved counties.
- Re-create the federal reinsurance program. That program helped to stem losses by insurers and spur their participation in the exchanges. The program was phased out, but the plan would reinstate it.
The plan would also encourage open enrollment and institute other programs to allow states more flexibility in addressing their needs.
The proposal comes after Republican attempts to repeal and replace Obamacare — which were roundly criticized by many governors in both parties — fell through at the end of July.
A bipartisan solution is scheduled to be discussed by the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee in September, once Congress returns from its month long recess.
Here’s a full list of signatories:
- John Kasich, Ohio Republican
- John Hickenlooper, Colorado Democrat
- Brian Sandoval, Nevada Republican
- Tom Wolf, Pennsylvania Democrat
- Bill Walker, Alaska independent
- Terry McAuliffe, Virginia Democrat
- John Bel Edwards, Louisiana Democrat
- Steve Bullock, Montana Democrat