U.S. Rep. Rick Crawford said Friday that he would consider supporting legislation that restores funding for the health insurance subsidies President Donald Trump ended last week.
"I'm open to whatever we can do on a bipartisan basis to improve access and affordability of health care," the Jonesboro Republican told the Mississippi Delta Grassroots Caucus at a meeting in Little Rock.
"I absolutely would not support Medicare for everybody, but I would be willing to entertain the idea of supporting, upon reading completely," the measure unveiled Thursday by Sens. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., and Patty Murray, D-Wash., Crawford said.
During the meeting at the Clinton presidential library, an aide to U.S. Rep. French Hill said the congressman is also "open to considering" the proposal, which would provide funding for the subsidies through 2019.
Brooke Bennett, Hill's chief of staff, said the Little Rock congressman "has an open mind to proposals that will ultimately benefit Arkansans and Americans, so we are looking at all proposals and all options."
Among other members of the state's all-Republican congressional delegation, spokesmen for Sens. Tom Cotton and John Boozman said they were still studying the proposal as of Friday.
A spokesman for Rep. Bruce Westerman of Hot Springs didn't return a call seeking comment on Friday.
Rep. Steve Womack of Rogers was at a meeting of the U.S. Military Academy's board of visitors in West Point, N.Y., on Friday and was unavailable for comment, spokesman Heather Neilson said.
Gov. Asa Hutchison, also a Republican, said at the Delta Caucus meeting that he supports the legislation. He noted the loss of the subsidies will result in double-digit premium increases for about 4,000 Arkansans who are enrolled in plans on the state's insurance exchange and don't qualify for federal assistance to help with the cost.
The Alexander-Murray measure "fixes a problem that would really hurt people if it was not fixed," Hutchinson said.
"It's a good, temporary solution until we have a long-term solution for where we're going to go in health care," he said.
Hutchinson and the state's congressional delegation have also backed unsuccessful, Republican-led efforts to repeal and replace the 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.
Most recently, Senate Republican leaders last month abandoned a proposal by Sens. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and Bill Cassidy, R-La., that drew opposition from all the chamber's Democrats and four of its 52 Republicans.
Hutchinson, Boozman and Cotton had expressed support for that measure, which would have converted funding provided under the Affordable Care Act into block grants to states.
The subsidies that Trump ended last week, known as cost-sharing reduction payments, are one of two types of assistance provided under the Affordable Care Act to people who don't qualify for Medicaid and buy insurance through health insurance exchanges.
Tax-credit subsidies lower the premiums for many consumers with incomes below 400 percent of the poverty level: $47,520 for an individual, for instance, or $97,000 for a family of four.
The cost-sharing payments reimburse insurers for increasing the amount of coverage provided through so-called silver-level plans to consumers with incomes below 250 percent of the poverty level.
Trump stopped the payments Oct. 12 after Attorney General Jeff Sessions issued an opinion agreeing with a federal judge's ruling that Congress had never approved funding for the payments.
In response, Arkansas Insurance Commissioner Allen Kerr last week allowed insurers to increase their rates for their exchange plans by double-digit amounts starting in 2018.
The tax-credit subsidies, which are tied to the size of a plan's premium, are expected to shield many consumers from those increases. Those who don't qualify for the tax credits and are enrolled in silver plans on the exchange will pay more unless they switch to other types of plans.
In addition to appropriating money for the cost-sharing payments, the Alexander-Murray proposal would increase the number of people eligible to buy bare-bones catastrophic coverage plans and expand states' ability to apply for waivers from rules established under the Affordable Care Act
Co-sponsored by 11 Republicans, 10 Democrats and Maine's Angus King, an independent who caucuses with the Democrats, the proposal would likely garner 60 votes in the Senate, allowing it to overcome a filibuster. But it faces opposition from House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wisconsin and conservative House members.
Trump has alternately praised and condemned the effort.
On Friday, a White House official said the administration wanted the proposal to include provisions eliminating the Affordable Care Act's penalties for individuals who fail to maintain coverage and for employers who fail to offer it.
The White House also wants to make it easier to buy cheaper policies offering less coverage, said the official, who was not authorized to describe the demands on the record.
Murray and Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., rejected the requested changes, which Schumer said would further Trump's "sabotage" of the law.
"I'm certainly not interested in changing our bipartisan agreement to move health care in the wrong direction," Murray said.
In a written statement Friday, Alexander called the back-and-forth "the normal legislative process with people of different views saying what they are for and against."
Information for this article was contributed by Alan Fram of The Associated Press.
A Section on 10/21/2017
Print Headline: Crawford, Hill open to reviving insurer subsidies