Last month, Senate Health, Education, Labor & Pensions (HELP) Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and Ranking Member Patty Murray (D.-Wash.) announced two bipartisan healthcare hearings for September.
The first hearing is with state insurance commissioners and the second with governors to look at stabilizing premiums in the individual insurance market. Alexander announced Gov. Bill Haslam has been selected as one of five governors asked to testify before the committee. Tennessee Department of Commerce & Insurance Commissioner Julie Mix McPeak, who also serves as president-elect of the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, has been aksed to testify, as well.
"While there are a number of issues with the American healthcare system, if your house is on fire, you want to put out the fire ... and the fire in this case is in the individual health insurance market," said Alexander.
He added his goal was to be able to provide peace of mind before the end of the month to those who purchase health insurance on the individual market. He noted Congress must act by Sept. 27, the deadline for insurance companies to sign contracts with the federal government to sell insurance products on the federal exchange in 2018.
"At these hearings, we will hear testimony from state insurance commissioners and governors -- those closest to the problem -- on steps Congress can take to help make insurance available at affordable prices," said Alexander. "Any solution that Congress passes for a 2018 stabilization package will have to be small, bipartisan and balanced. It should give states more flexibility in approving insurance policies by improving section 1332 of the Affordable Care Act, as well as fund the cost-sharing reduction payments to help stabilize premiums for 2018."
Murray concurred that it would take a bipartisan effort to begin to address the nation's healthcare challenges after the Senate failed to pass reform measures along purely party lines. "It is clearer than ever that the path to continue making healthcare work better for patients and families isn't through partisanship or backroom deals. It is through working across the aisle, transparency, and coming together to find common ground where we can," she said.
Alexander and Murray have successfully navigated a number of bipartisan efforts impacting the healthcare industry including the successful passage of the 21st Century Cures Act and the recent FDA User Fee Agreements.