Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander and Washington state’s own Democratic Sen. Patty Murray are two experienced lawmakers with a knack for finding common ground. Here’s hoping they succeed.
Enough with all the D.C. dysfunction. The adults in the room have work to do.
The adults sit on the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, well led by Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander and Washington state’s own Democratic Sen. Patty Murray, the panel’s ranking member. They are seeking, against long odds, to lower health-care costs and bring some much-needed stability to the individual insurance market. No easy task.
Working across party lines to get difficult things done is nothing new for Murray. In 2013, she and Paul Ryan came together to create a budget deal that averted a government shutdown. In 2015, she worked with Sen. Alexander to fix the flawed No Child Left Behind Act.
Now, she and Alexander have teamed up again. They have heard testimony this month from governors and state insurance commissioners, and Thursday, their committee was scheduled to hear from doctors, hospitals, insurers and patients. The basic deal they are working toward is this: Guarantee the subsidies to insurance companies that President Donald Trump has repeatedly threatened to end, while giving states more flexibility to offer different insurance options.
Critics of the plan call it a bailout for insurance companies. Murray and Alexander say they are just trying to avoid large premium increases that would result from continued uncertainty in the market.
Alexander said at a recent HELP committee hearing: “To get a result, Democrats will have to agree to something — more flexibility for states — that some may be reluctant to support. And Republicans will have to agree to something, additional funding through the Affordable Care Act, that some may be reluctant to support. That is called a compromise.”
He also said this: “People know the high respect I have for Sen. Murray. When she gets involved and tries to get a result, we usually get one.”
Here’s hoping. These are two experienced lawmakers with a knack for finding common ground, but the congressional cards are stacked against them, and they face a Sept. 27 deadline. That’s the day insurers must sign contracts that will lock them into participating in Obamacare next year.
Elsewhere on the Hill this week, two things happened:
First, Republican Sens. Lindsey…