Reporting published on July 30 by Politico has shown that a group of about 40 members of the House have been collaborating in the background of the healthcare fight to come up with an honest bipartisan compromise bill. They call themselves the Problem Solvers caucus.
The group is led by Democrat Josh Gottheimer of New Jersey and Republican Tom Reed of New York. Gottheimer, a first-term legislator, has been a strategist at Microsoft and a speech writer in the Clinton administration. Reed has been in Congress since 2010 and was formerly the mayor of his hometown.
The two stated in interviews with NPR’s Audie Cornish that their caucus has been meeting regularly, having late-night sessions fueled buy beer and tacos, in which they get down to the sleeve-rolling and horse-trading that many Americans don’t associate with congress anymore.
They have produced a five-point plan to stabilize markets and keep premiums and deductibles down for the coming year. Their plan includes provisions for providing money to cover the cost-sharing reductions that the President has been threatening to withhold from insurers, and a provision for a “stability-fund” designed to offset the costs of high-risk patients so that their costs aren’t covered by raising premiums on everyone else.
Next the caucus wants to raise the definition of full-time to 40 hours, and change the employee mandate to only apply to companies that have at least 500 employees. CBO and others have said that this move may not have the effect of throwing millions off their health plans, certainly this is the Problem Solvers’ most contentious point. The fourth measure is to repeal the medical device tax, which is supposed to add $29 billion over ten years to help pay for the ACA. The medical device industry does not like the tax. Democrats have joined in symbolic medical device tax repeals in the past. The final proposal is to try and make it more feasible for insurers to set up cross-state coverage networks, not an easy task, but one that could further lower premiums.
While it seems like these proposals, perhaps with a little more negotiating, could form the basis for a 2018 healthcare market stabilization law, it remains to be seen what will ultimately come of this effort. So far there hasn’t been any notable public comment by House leadership. If leadership won’t take up their recommendations though, they might not be able to solve anything.