Hickenlooper and Kasich propose 
a bipartisan health-care bill

“People’s lives depend” on Congress passing a bipartisan proposal to improve the nation’s health care system,” Gov. John Hickenlooper announced, as he and Ohio Gov. John Kasich joined forces to craft legislation designed to improve the Affordable Care Act.

Working quietly behind the scenes, Kasich and Hickenlooper spent weeks earlier this year developing an insurance plan focused on stabilizing the individual health insurance markets. They are now seeking support from other governors.

Six other governors so far have signed on to the proposal. These include Democrats Tom Wolfe of Pennsylvania, Terry R. McAuliffe of Virginia, John Bel Edwards of Louisiana, and Steve Bullock of Montana. Republican Brian Sandoval of Nevada signed on to the proposal, as did Independent Bill Walker of Alaska.

These governors outlined their plan in a letter to Congressional leaders, urging the Congress and President Donald Trump’s administration to “take immediate action to stabilize the individual health insurance marketplace.”

Millions of Americans who do not receive health care through their employer or government programs like Medicare or Medicaid must purchase insurance individually through the insurance markets.

The governors called for a continuation through 2019 of federal funding of subsidies to insurance companies that reduce deductibles and co-pays for low-income people. Without these subsidies, premiums would be 20-25 percent higher, and the federal deficit would increase $194 million over 10 years, according to the governors.

The governors also recommended exempting insurers offering coverage in underserved counties from some federal taxes, allowing residents of these counties to buy into the Federal Employees Benefit Program to expand their choices and access to insurance, keeping the individual mandate “at least for now” to prevent a rapid exit of insurers from the marketplace and incentivize healthy people to buy insurance. 

“As we move beyond the immediate crisis,” the governors’ letter said, “the real challenge over time will be to confront the underlying cost drivers of health care spending, and reset incentives to reward better care for individuals, better health for populations, and lower costs.”

“This blueprint is the result of true and real compromise in practice.” Kasich said. Republicans and Democrats CAN work together for the common good.”

Under the proposed plan, the federal government would continue cost-sharing subsidies for insurance companies to enable them to reduce deductibles and co-pays for lower income people.

Companies serving under-served counties would be exempt from paying some federal taxes. Individuals in those counties would be eligible to buy into insurance programs that give them the same benefits as federal workers get.

The Kasich/Hickenlooper plan also retains the “individual mandate” requiring people to buy insurance. However it allows states greater flexibility in covering essential benefits under federal law.

Given the Republican failure earlier this year to repeal the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), it seems unlikely they will be ready now to throw in the towel and accept defeat.

Hickenlooper agrees. “I’m not blind,” he told the Denver Post. “We can come up with some great ideas, and right now, the way the landscape in Washington appears, even the best ideas would probably be shouted down.

“We know it’s a hard job. We know it not an easy task. But we gain nothing if we just sit on the sidelines,” Hickenlooper added.

The governor’s admonition should be regarded as a marching order for Americans who believe we need better health care for more people. Kasich and Hickenlooper are right. The insurance market must be stabilized, costs lowered and availability of insurance increased so all Americans can get the health care they need at a cost they can afford.

The cooperation of Hickenlooper and Kasich are an example to us all of how it is possible to look beyond our differences to find a common solution to our most pressing public policy issues.

Bill Grant lives in Grand Junction. He can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).


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