Costello, Smucker appear to buck Trump, back bipartisan healthcare plan

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By Mike McGann, Editor, The Times

Two local congressman — Lloyd Smucker and Ryan Costello — say a moderate, bipartisan group of House members they belong to, the Problem Solvers Caucus, have reached an agreement on a package of fixes for the Affordable Care Act, a package that could provide a framework for a true bipartisan fix for the healthcare marketplace.

After the U.S. Senate rejected a series of bills last week that would repeal the ACA — also known as Obamacare — a number of elected official argued that a new, bipartisan approach to fix the flaws of the current law was the best option moving forward, including members of the moderate Problem Solvers Caucus.

President Donald Trump, Tweeting over the weekend, threatened both to defund the ACA subsidies — currently paid and managed by the executive branch — and end subsidies for members of Congress, unless a new repeal and replace bill was passed.

Despite that, bipartisan efforts in both the U.S. House and Senate appear to be picking up momentum, and in this case of this proposal in the house, the backing of two local Congress Members.

“Task one is to stabilize the insurance marketplace this year for all Americans,” U.S. Rep. Ryan Costello (PA-06) said in a statement, Monday. “We need to ultimately implement sustainable reforms to improve our healthcare system, and it needs to be anchored from the ideological center in order to pass both chambers of Congress and have the confidence of the American public. That’s the reality as I see it, I think a broad cross-section of my constituents and Americans agree, and that’s how I intend to help lead this effort.”

Although Smucker voted for the earlier repeal and replace bill in the house — Costello and U.S. Rep. Patrick Meehan were “no” votes on the measure — he said it would be wrong to just let the healthcare marketplace collapse, as President Trump has suggested.

“While the Senate was unable to advance our goal of repealing and replacing Obamacare, we must continue our effort to relieve the American people of Obamacare’s burdensome costs, regulations, and uncertainty,”, Smucker (R-16) said in a statement..

“The system is broken – that hasn’t changed in the last seven months – but simply letting American families’ health care collapse would be catastrophic and unacceptable. Just this year, residents of the 16th District saw premium increases as high as 40 percent – the highest in the state. Problem Solvers Caucus is presenting a path forward to stabilize the insurance marketplace, repeal onerous taxes and regulations, and ensure affordable, quality care. These areas of bipartisan agreement are critical components to start fixing our broken health care system.

“Washington has enough people unwilling to talk to each other. The American people are still waiting for, and deserve, solutions. The Problem Solvers Caucus is a group of bipartisan lawmakers more concerned with governing than obstructing. There are areas of agreement, and so we should start fixing our failing system.”

The proposal would stabilize the individual market place in a number of ways:

1. The proposal would bring cost-sharing reduction (CSR) payments under Congressional oversight and appropriations process and ensure they have mandatory funding. CSR payments are an important part of helping households earning between 100% and 250% of the federal poverty level afford to participate in the individual market. Bringing CSR payments under the appropriations process ensures that Congress can provide proper oversight.

2. Create a dedicated stability fund that states can use to reduce premiums and limit losses for providing coverage—especially for those with pre-existing conditions. 

3. Adjust the employer mandate by raising the threshold on the requirement for employers to provide insurance under the employer mandate to businesses of 500 employees or more. The current employer mandate places a regulatory burden on smaller employers and acts as a disincentive for many small businesses to grow past 50 employees. Additionally, the definition of “full time” under the employer mandate should indicate that a full-time work week is 40 hours. 

4. Repeal the medical device tax. This tax adds a 2.3% sales tax on medical device supplies. The costs of the tax are passed on to consumers and it should be repealed. 

5. Provide technical changes and clear guidelines for states that want to innovate on the exchange or enter into regional compacts to improve coverage and create more options for consumers. 

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  1. Charlene McGrady says:

    I’ll believe it when I see it! Both of these guys have shown themselves to be more concerned with giving Trump a legislative win — even if the poor, sick, elderly and disable lose — than with making the ACA better. It isn’t perfect, but it can be perfected. All we’ve seen from the White House are threats and attempts to sabotage the ACA (e.g., by not promoting open enrollment). Costello and Smucker need to decide if they love their constituents more than they hate Obama. Whose side are you on?

  2. Jack Guida MD says:

    There are some good ideas here. We’re getting to the point where Americans are going to call for single payer if we can’t make the ACA work. I’m skeptical that the Republicans will get behind this but if they want to keep their seats, it would be in their best interest to advance this through the legislature.

  3. Wayne Braffman says:

    Talk is cheap.
    The Republican 2018 Congressional re-election game plan is to claim bipartisanship in spite of a voting record that solidly backs Trump and. the extremist agenda offered by the Republican Party leadership.
    I eagerly await the product of this group.
    I would love for them to prove me wrong.

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