By FOCUS, a Leonine Business
After another spectacular and somewhat expected crashing and burning of federal healthcare reform efforts, a new and often unfamiliar approach is beginning to take hold on the issue in Washington, with the support of numerous state governors, congressional legislators and outside advocacy groups: bipartisanship. While such a strategy is almost unheard of in today’s political climate, bipartisan efforts have begun to take shape at both the federal and state level, as well as by nongovernmental groups, to diagnose and treat perceived problems with the nation’s complex healthcare system.
On the state level, a bipartisan group of 13 governors – seven Democrats and six Republicans – convened by the National Governors Association (NGA) have put forward a slate of moderate proposals that would take a step in the right direction to push meaningful reforms, Stateline reports. The group, comprised of the governors of California, Delaware, Kentucky, Minnesota, Montana, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington and Wyoming, have called for a multipronged approach that would include measures favored by both sides of the political spectrum.
The plan calls for immediate federal funding in order to stabilize individual markets in the state – funding which Republican President Donald Trump has threatened to unilaterally cut off in order to let the markets “implode,” which would undoubtedly have devastating effects on the states. The NGA endorsed approach would also include delegating more authority to states in managing their individual insurance marketplaces and their Medicaid programs, and more authority to combat rising drug prices, a political flashpoint in recent years. It would also give states more power to regulate health insurance policies sold within their borders – all changes favored by Republican governors.
At the federal level, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-KY, has indicated he is open to sitting down at the table to work on a compromise with Senate Democrats, without whom he has, as of yet, been unable to pass any kind of reform. The Hill reports that the Majority Leader has been amenable to the idea of working with Democrats if both parties are willing to compromise. Meanwhile, Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-TN, chairman of the Senate Health Committee, has quietly been working on a bipartisan proposal to stabilize the individual health markets with the committee’s ranking minority member, Sen. Patty Murray, D-WA. Some Senators, however, are less than enthusiastic about wasting more valuable time on health policy, and instead are eager to move onto one of the GOP’s other signature policy goals – tax reform. Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-UT, chair of the Senate Finance Committee, recently stated that his committee is done working on health care issues and has moved on to tax policy reform, “We’re not going back to health care. We’re in tax now.”
Finally, the Associated Press is reporting that a group of conservative and liberal health policy experts are pushing both the Trump administration and Congress to take quick and decisive steps to stabilize health care markets “until a longer-term resolution can be achieved and, most importantly, to protect coverage and health care access.” Similar to other proposals, this includes the continuing of federal payments to prop up the individual markets, and to continue programs aimed at encouraging people to sign up for health insurance on the exchange; the Trump administration has largely discontinued these programs, which seek to expand the overall risk pools for the individual markets.
The next two years will continue to be consequential for states, insurers, health care providers and consumers as both parties continue to work towards solutions for the problems facing our nation’s healthcare system. With multiple one-party solutions having failed, a move towards bipartisanship on this issue is in the best interest of all Americans.