The Affordable Care Act has survived umpteen misguided efforts to kill it in Congress, and yet it lives — with polls showing it has more public support than detractors.
Knocking 5 million people, or even 10 million, 20 million or 25 million, is an obviously terrible idea, and the public knows it.
That alone should serve as a reminder to congressional Republicans and the Trump administration. President Donald J. Trump was utterly wrong last week to take steps to undermine the ACA, also known as Obamacare, insurance exchanges. The Republican moved to cut payments to insurers that help the companies with costs for insuring low-income consumers.
Fortunately on Tuesday, U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., came riding to the rescue. The senators reached a tentative bipartisan agreement on a policy repair after months of negotiating and apparently some involvement by Trump.
This doesn’t come a day too soon. Early reports are that Trump actually supports their proposal. In flat contradiction to the president’s position a week ago, he now appears to support payments to insurers on a short-term basis.
Trump seemed to concur during a news conference with the prime minister of Greece, describing the compromise as a “short term deal” that would last just a year or two so "we don't have this dangerous little period."
If that stays true, it is tremendous news. What’s unclear is whether Trump would stick with a compromise that keeps the Affordable Care Act mandate that all people get insurance. Failing to require coverage universally would undermine the insurance markets by letting consumers wait until they were sick before buying coverage.
Trump took other worrisome steps last week to let trade associations offer small-group policies across state lines, even if they were approved by only one state. That kicks open the door to coverage gaps, which the ACA sought to close. Trump’s proposal, if carried through, could let insurers avoid higher standards set by state regulators like Washington’s.
Securing a bipartisan agreement is nothing new for Sens. Murray and Alexander. The duo collaborated a few years ago to change the No Child Left Behind education act, and Murray has brokered bipartisan budget agreements that avoided government shutdowns.
We’re encouraged that they found common ground. But more details are needed on the Murray-Alexander proposal, and Congress must follow suit.
Washington Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler commended the bipartisan work but also called for Trump “to stop declaring that the Affordable Care Act is over. That type of rhetoric is very damaging at a time when people are worried about getting health insurance.”
That is exactly right.