Republican senators are pushing legislation that would make it easier for people who cannot afford to buy coverage on their own to obtain it through an online exchange, which could have far-reaching implications for the health care marketplaces.
The proposal would also expand Medicaid, which covers the poor, and would let people purchase insurance through a tax credit program that would give people up to $2,500 a year to buy insurance.
The Senate has yet to take up the measure, which has been referred to a conference committee.
If the Senate passes it, states could expand Medicaid eligibility and potentially reduce the cost of premiums for the coverage they offer.
The bill would also give states a choice about how to provide their own exchange.
It would also force states to provide coverage to all residents in Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP).
But the bill would not extend coverage to children under the age of 26, which critics say could lead to higher premiums for younger adults.
The legislation is being championed by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), a presidential contender who is not part of the Senate GOP leadership.
It is the latest in a series of bills that are designed to reduce the number of people buying insurance in the individual marketplaces and force insurers to offer lower-cost plans.
The idea is to provide greater competition in the marketplaces, which have been plagued by rising premiums, as well as to help stabilize them after insurers were unable to meet the mandates set by the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.
A number of the measures introduced in the Senate have been endorsed by the Trump administration.
Cruz has been an advocate of allowing states to opt out of the ACA’s individual mandate, which requires individuals to buy health insurance or pay a penalty.
It was the law’s expansion of the Medicaid program that led to the spike in insurance premiums in the first place.
The House also approved a bill that would allow states to waive the individual mandate.
But the Senate has not taken up that legislation.
The Trump administration has argued that the GOP’s healthcare bill will provide more choice for consumers.
“The Senate is doing the right thing in providing more choices to Americans by providing states more flexibility in offering low-cost, high-quality, affordable health care coverage to the American people,” said Caitlin Hayden, a senior fellow at the liberal Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.
“As Republicans, we recognize the importance of health care reform, but we also want to be part of helping create a stable and sustainable marketplace for Americans who want to have a full, quality, affordable plan.”
The GOP bill is also being touted by Republican governors, who have long opposed Obamacare, and some states have taken action to make coverage more affordable for residents who cannot find it elsewhere.
California Governor Jerry Brown signed an executive order in August that requires employers with 50 or more workers to provide health insurance to all employees, regardless of income.
Other governors, including those from Illinois and Ohio, have also sought to make the individual insurance marketplaces more affordable.
The Republican leadership in the House is also pushing to expand Medicaid to low-income adults who earn up to 138% of the federal poverty level.
“In California and many other states, we’ve seen that we can reduce the costs for low- and moderate-income people by expanding Medicaid,” said Sen. Jeff Flake (R – AZ).
“This is a step in the right direction, and we should be moving this forward.”