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Baker To Testify On Obamacare Before Senate Committee

Greg Desrosiers/TSM
Greg Desrosiers/TSM

BOSTON- Governor Charlie Baker will testify on Capitol Hill next month before a Senate health committee alongside four other governors from both parties about steps Congress could take to stabilize insurance markets following the collapse of GOP-led efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act.

Baker, the former chief executive of Harvard Pilgrim Health Care, will go before the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions on Sept. 7. The chair of that committee – Tennessee Sen. Lamar Alexander – is embarking on a bipartisan effort with ranking minority member Washington Sen. Patty Murray to shore up elements of Obamacare that have not been working well in some states.

The HELP Committee announced the hearing schedule on Wednesday, and Baker’s office confirmed the governor participation.

Baker will be joined in Washington by Republican Govs. Bill Haslam of Tennessee and Gary Herbert of Utah and Democratic Govs. Steve Bullock of Montana and John Hickenlooper of Colorado.

The hearing with the governor is expected to focus on “stabilizing premiums in the individual insurance market so that the 18 million Americans in the individual market will be able to buy insurance at affordable prices in the year 2018,” according to the committee.

Baker opposed every iteration of Republican plans in the House and Senate to repeal and replace, or just repeal, Obamacare. Like other governors, one of Baker’s chief concerns was efforts to cut federal spending on Medicaid by putting caps on program spending that many worried would lead to a shift in cost to the states for insuring the poor and elderly.

Alexander, a Republican, embarked on an effort to stabilize the Affordable Care Act insurance markets following the collapse of repeal efforts in the Senate, and choose to do so in cooperation with Murray, a Democrat.

“This won’t be easy to do, but we are going to do our best to do it,” Alexander told the New York Times earlier this month.

President Donald Trump has oscillated between telling Republican leaders in Congress to revive the repeal-and-replace efforts or simply let Obamacare implode, which the president believes will happen if nothing is done.

Baker, in letters to Congressional leaders, has argued for fixes to the current law that include more flexibility for states, such as allowing states to keep individualized rating factors than can impact the price of plan premiums.

The HELP Committee said the testimony from the governors will be preceded on Sept. 6 by testimony from state insurance commissioners.

The Baker administration did not immediately respond to a question about whether interim Insurance Commissioner Gary Anderson had been invited to Capitol Hill.

–Matt Murphy, State House News Service 

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