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GOP chairman: ‘Timing is a challenge’ in stabilizing ObamaCare markets

The Senate’s Health Committee should find consensus on a bipartisan health bill to stabilize the ObamaCare markets by the end of next week, Chairman Lamar AlexanderAndrew (Lamar) Lamar AlexanderThis week: Harvey aid at top of long to-do list as Congress returns Trump, Congress face packed September agenda Tennessee pulls out of multistate DACA challenge MORE (R-Tenn.) said Wednesday.

At the first of the committee’s four hearings on stabilizing the market, Alexander said the panel needs to act quickly so Congress can pass a bill by the end of September.

“Timing is a challenge. So I propose that we come to a consensus by the end of next week when our hearings are complete so that Congress can act on it before the end of September,” Alexander said in his opening remarks.

“Otherwise we will not be able to affect insurance rates, and the availability for insurance, for next year.”

Alexander said that he and Sen. Patty MurrayPatricia (Patty) Lynn MurrayTrump, Congress face packed September agenda Lawmakers to give bipartisanship a try on ObamaCare The GOP needs to recover its credibility and repeal ObamaCare MORE (D-Wash.), the panel’s ranking member, also held a closed-door meeting with senators who are not on the Health Committee and witnesses before Wednesday’s hearing.

Sen. Ron JohnsonRonald (Ron) Harold JohnsonSenators press agency heads for Trump-mandated cyber reports Acrimony rises within GOP ahead of difficult September Johnson wants details on congressional ObamaCare ‘exemption’ MORE (R-Wis.) said he attended that meeting, and he noted that 25 percent of the Senate participated.

That was “a pretty good sign that there is a strong desire to recognize that we have got some problems in our healthcare system and those problems need some fixing, and hopefully on a bipartisan basis,” Johnson, the chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, said in opening remarks at his panel’s bipartisan health-care hearing.

The hearings come after Senate Republicans failed to pass an ObamaCare repeal bill. 

Republicans only have until the end of the month to pass legislation repealing ObamaCare and avoid a Democratic filibuster under a ruling from the Senate parliamentarian.

Additionally, there’s not much time to stabilize the markets for 2018. Insurers must sign contracts to participate in HealthCare.gov by Sept. 27, and ObamaCare open enrollment begins Nov. 1.

It’s unclear if the committee can find consensus on a marketplace stabilization bill. Democrats are asking for multiple years of funding for key ObamaCare insurer payments, known as cost-sharing reduction subsidies.

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