Alexander angry, exasperated over collapse of latest attempted Obamacare fix

U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander’s latest attempt to stabilize the nation’s health care insurance markets under the Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare, collapsed last week in partisan squabbling over abortion, reports Michael Collins. There was an accompanying “flurry of finger-pointing and bitter charges by each side that the other was playing politics.”

“I’m disappointed – I’m angry about it,” an exasperated Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., said Friday, a few hours after Democrats blocked efforts to attach health insurance legislation to a $1.3 trillion spending bill.

Alexander described the last seven months of talks with Democrats and their lead negotiator, Sen. Patty Murray of Washington, as “the most frustrating and disappointing time in my 16 years in the Senate.”

Murray said she’s also “extremely disappointed we’ve reached this point.” But, she added, “it does not mean I’m giving up on getting this done.”

For thousands of Americans, the breakdown in discussions could mean higher insurance rates this fall. Unless Congress acts, premiums could jump by as much as 40 percent in October for people who buy their insurance on the individual market instead of getting it through their employer or from a government program, according to an analysis by health care experts at the management consulting firm Oliver Wyman.

Alexander, who chairs the Senate committee with jurisdiction over health insurance, said he sees no way to avoid the premium increases. Republicans and Democrats have reached an impasse, he said, and he sees no path forward.

“We’ve talked about it until I’m blue in the face,” he said.

… Murray and other Democrats claim the bipartisan negotiations on health insurance were upended when Alexander surprised them at the last minute by insisting that the Hyde amendment restrictions must be applied to any health insurance legislation. That would amount to an expansion of abortion restrictions and would essentially mean Americans who buy a policy on one of the Obamacare marketplaces would be unable to access abortion coverage even if they paid for it with their own money, Democrats said.

The GOP bill “pulled the most worn page out of the Republican ideological playbook: making extreme, political attacks on women’s health care,” said Murray, the Senate health committee’s top Democrat.

Nonsense, countered Republicans.

“This is nothing that is radical or new,” said Sen. Susan Collins, a pro-choice Republican from Maine, who pointed out that Democrats have gone along in the past when Hyde restrictions have applied to Medicare, Medicaid and other government programs.

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