Recent Developments on Federal Health Insurance Reforms

Harris to Co-Sponsor “Medicare for All” Bill

During a town hall event this week in Oakland, U.S. Senator Kamala Harris announced her intention to co-sponsor the single-payer “Medicare for All” bill that U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders will introduce in September. Stating that “it’s just the right thing to do,” Harris departed from the position of U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein who has expressed concerns over the costs and details of such single-payer measure. Sanders is expected to release the text of his “Medicare for All” bill in the coming weeks.

Bipartisan Governors Offer Solution to Strengthen Health Insurance Markets

Republican Governor John Kasich of Ohio and Democratic Governor John Hickenlooper of Colorado released a plan this week to stabilize the individual health insurance marketplace and make health insurance more affordable. In a letter addressed to congressional leaders, the governors focus on federal action to stabilize markets, preserve coverage gains and control costs, and continue a robust federal-state partnership. Some of their specific recommendations include:

  • Funding cost-sharing reductions (CSRs) to insurance providers through at least 2019;
  • Keeping the individual insurance coverage mandate in the immediate future;
  • Creating tax exemptions for insurance providers offering plans in underserved counties; and
  • Supporting and streamlining state innovation waivers, including increased flexibility in choosing essential health benefit (EHB) coverage

The plan is a result of months of work between the two governors and their push for a bipartisan solution to nation’s health insurance system. Governors from Alaska, Louisiana, Montana, Nevada, Pennsylvania, and Virginia also signed onto the plan which is available here.

Upon Congress’ return to Washington next week, a series of bipartisan Senate hearings on how to stabilize and strengthen the individual health insurance marketplace will be held. Hickenlooper and a handful of other governors are expected to testify at one of the hearings.

With several priority deadlines facing Congress this fall, such as the debt ceiling, government funding, and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) funding, it remains to be seen what action, if any, related to health insurance will be taken.