“Republican plans to replace Obamacare are fading fast, but that doesn’t mean Congress is done with health care.

“On Wednesday, the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee kick(ed) off the first of four scheduled hearings this month examining the individual health care market with the goal of producing a bipartisan bill that makes modest fixes.
Ideas on the table include funding cost-sharing reduction (CSR) payments that President Donald Trump has threatened to cut off, adding a reinsurance fund to help with unexpected patient costs, and providing a backup option for counties with no insurers under the Affordable Care Act…
Despite claims of imminent collapse by Trump and other Republicans, Obamacare’s markets have stabilized somewhat. Insurer profits are up this year, and no counties are currently slated to go without coverage, although some are facing steep premium increases. (A)

“…The Senate Health Committee says Capitol Hill has no choice but to throw a lifeline to Americans facing higher prices and dwindling choices in the individual market, where roughly 20 million Americans buy insurance on their own, after GOP lawmakers failed to send President Trump a bill to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act.
Republicans thought they’d be presiding over a “stable transition period” to a conservative health care model and fully pivoting to tax reform by now.
Instead, Health Committee chairman Lamar Alexander is urging his GOP colleagues to bless short-term fixes for consumers and insurers who’ve been left in a type of “no man’s land” ahead of this fall’s sign-up period, as Mr. Trump mulls longer-term options for pulling away from the 2010 health law.
“There are a number of issues with the American health care system, but if your house is on fire, you want to put out the fire, and the fire in this case is the individual health insurance market,” Mr. Alexander, Tennessee Republican, said in launching the effort with Sen. Patty Murray of Washington, the panel’s highest-ranking Democrat. (B)

“Millions of people who buy individual health insurance policies and get no financial help from the Affordable Care Act are bracing for another year of double-digit premium increases, and their frustration is boiling over.
Some are expecting premiums for 2018 to rival a mortgage payment.
What they pay is tied to the price of coverage on the health insurance markets created by the Obama-era law, but these consumers get no protection from the law’s tax credits, which cushion against rising premiums. Instead they pay full freight and bear the brunt of market problems such as high costs and diminished competition…
The most exposed consumers tend to be middle-class people who don’t qualify for the law’s income-based subsidies. They include early retirees, skilled tradespeople, musicians, self-employed professionals, business owners, and people such as Sharon Thornton, whose small employer doesn’t provide health insurance.
“We’re caught in the middle-class loophole of no help,” said Thornton, a hairdresser from Newark, Delaware. She said she’s currently paying about $740 a month in premiums, and expects her monthly bill next year to be around $1,000, a 35 percent increase.
“It’s like buying two new iPads a month and throwing them in the trash,” said Thornton, whose policy carries a deductible of $6,000…”(C)

“President Donald Trump and some Senate Republicans are refusing to give up on Obamacare repeal, even after this summer’s spectacular failure and with less than a month before a key deadline.
The president and White House staff have continued to work with Republican Sens. Lindsey Graham of South Carolijna and Bill Cassidy of Louisiana over the summer on their proposal to block grant federal health care funding to the states. And though the bill is being rewritten and Congress faces a brutal September agenda, Trump and his allies on health care are making a last-gasp effort.
“He wants to do it, the president does. He loves the block grants. But we’ve got to have political support outside Washington,” Graham said in an interview. He said the bill needs to have a “majority of the Republican governors behind the idea” to gain momentum in the Senate…
The Congressional Budget Office would also still need time to analyze the cost of the bill, a process that could take several weeks….(D)

The Republican chairman of the Senate health committee said Thursday that he hopes to release a bipartisan health care bill “within 10 days or so….
At the hearing, governors hailing from five states were armed with a stern and unified message: Congress and President Donald Trump had better get their acts together to strengthen Obamacare and stabilize the individual marketplace…
The most urgent topic of discussion was whether Congress would continue to fund a key set of Obamacare subsidies known as cost-sharing reduction payments. Governors, insurance commissioners and others have repeatedly urged Congress and Trump to fund the payments, which reduce deductibles and co-pays for lower-income enrollees, at least through 2018.” (E)

“A new Republican bill to replace Obamacare will be unveiled in the U.S. Senate on Monday with backing from President Donald Trump, according to one of two Republican senators who have crafted the legislation.
The lawmaker, Senator Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, told reporters he was optimistic the legislation could pass before a Sept. 30 deadline, if it can attract the bare minimum of 50 votes needed to succeed in the Republican-led Senate with tie-breaking support from Vice President Mike Pence..
The new measure, which would give more healthcare powers to the states, is a revamped version of legislation that did not gain enough support during the summer healthcare debate. (F)

“Senator Elizabeth Warren announced on Thursday she’s co-sponsoring Senator Bernie Sanders’s “Medicare for All” bill, which is set to be introduced next week in the Senate.
In a statement, Warren said, “There is something fundamentally wrong when one of the richest and most powerful countries on the planet can’t make sure that a person can afford to see a doctor when they’re sick. This isn’t any way to live.”
“I believe it’s time to take a step back and ask: What is the best way to deliver high quality, low-cost health care to all Americans? Everything should be on the table—and that’s why I’m co-sponsoring Bernie Sanders’ ‘Medicare for All’ bill that will be introduced later this month,” the senator added.” (G)

“McCain, who cast the decisive vote against a pared-down ObamaCare repeal bill that failed in the Senate in July, said Wednesday he would support legislation sponsored by Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Bill Cassidy (R-La.) to change Medicaid.
McCain later issued a statement qualifying his earlier interview with reporters, saying he would want to review the legislation and its impact on Arizona before making a final decision.
The White House has talked up that legislation, with counselor Kellyanne Conway this week saying Trump would sign the bill if it reached his desk…
Collins, who also voted against the Senate’s last-ditch ObamaCare repeal strategy earlier this summer, said the momentum of the health-care debate has shifted to hearings that Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) is overseeing in the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee…
“I see the action happening in the HELP Committee, and the fact is that we’re going to have four hearings and by the end of next week I think you’ll see the outlines of a bill emerging from the committee,” Collins, a member of the committee, said.” (H)

(A) Health Care Reform Flatlined. But Lawmakers Aren’t Giving Up, by BENJY SARLIN, https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/congress/health-care-reform-flatlined-lawmakers-aren-t-giving-n797846
(B) Bipartisan group of senators pushes bill to shore up Obamacare, by Tom Howell Jr., http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2017/sep/4/obamacare-shore-up-bill-pushed-by-bipartisan-group/
(C) Millions who buy health insurance brace for sharp increases, by Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar, http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/nationworld/ct-health-insurance-premium-increases-20170904-story.html
(D) Trump wants one last Senate push on Obamacare repeal, by BURGESS EVERETT and JOSH DAWSEY, http://www.politico.com/story/2017/09/05/trump-obamacare-repeal-senate-242346
(E) GOP senator: Bipartisan health care bill coming in 10 days, by MJ Lee and Tami Luhby, http://www.cnn.com/2017/09/07/politics/lamar-alexander-bipartisan-health-care-bill/index.html
(F) New Senate Obamacare repeal bill due Monday: senator, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-congress-healthcare/new-senate-obamacare-repeal-bill-due-monday-senator-idUSKCN1BI2N3
(G) ELIZABETH WARREN CO-SPONSORING BERNIE SANDERS’S ‘MEDICARE FOR ALL’ BILL, by BY JOHN HALTIWANGER, http://www.newsweek.com/elizabeth-warren-cosponsoring-bernie-sanders-medicare-all-bill-661050
(H) Trump: ‘Good’ Deals Reached on Debt, Harvey, http://thehill.com/homenews/senate/349550-trumps-surprise-deal-shakes-up-fall-agenda

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