With backing of Trump, key Senators reach deal to fund health subsidy payments

Key Senators say they have reached a deal - backed by the President - which would fund payments to health insurance companies for two years, while also giving states more flexibility in how they deal with the underlying requirements of the Obama health law. But some Republicans quickly raised red flags, as the President again said he wants to see major changes - not short-term tinkering - in Obamacare.

"While I commend the bipartisan work done by Senators Alexander and Murray - and I do commend it - I continue to believe Congress must find a solution to the Obamacare mess instead of providing bailouts to insurance companies," the President said on Tuesday night in a speech to the conservative Heritage Foundation.

The plan, worked out by Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA), would provide two years of "Cost Sharing Reduction" payments, which had been discontinued last week by Mr. Trump, as he said he hoped his move had brought pressure on Democrats to negotiate changes in the law.

But the Senators involved in the plan saw something different.

"This agreement avoids chaos," Alexander said on the Senate floor.

The deal would reverse a decision made last Thursday night by President Trump, who moved to stop payments to insurance companies known as "CSR" payments, which are subsidies from the federal government, designed to pay off health care costs for some consumers who buy their health insurance through the Obamacare exchanges.

Republicans have claimed for several years - and federal courts have backed them up - that the payments were never directly approved by the Congress, and thus should never have been made by the federal government.

Mr. Trump authorized the payments from the start of his administration in January, but regularly threatened to end them - following through on that late last week.

Democrats praised the tentative agreement, but noted that the details are still not final of this deal.

"We think it's a good solution, and it got broad support," Senate Democratic Leader Charles Schumer said about the reaction from fellow Democrats at their lunch meeting.

While Democrats expressed their cautious support, there were red flags from the conservative side of the political spectrum, where there was strong opposition to any renewal of the CSR payments.

"The GOP should focus on repealing & replacing Obamacare, not trying to save it," said Rep. Mark Walker (R-NC). "This bailout is unacceptable."

The term "bailout," is one that was used by the President and White House officials to describe the payments, which were not approved by Congress, but made by both the Obama and Trump Administrations - until the President's decision last week.

Senators said the plan would not change any of the "Essential Health Benefits" within the Obama health law, but it would allow younger people to buy plans that had a lower premium, and higher yearly deductibles.

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