Rounds Co-Sponsors Alexander-Murray to Keep ACA Alive

Holy cow! In what we might generously read as Mike Rounds finally standing up to Donald Trump, South Dakota’s junior Senator is co-sponsoring the Alexander-Murray bill! This bipartisan legislation would restore the cost-sharing reductions that Trump recklessly cancelled last week, stabilize the Affordable Care Act individual-coverage marketplaces.

Rounds is one of twelve Republican Senators joining twelve Democrats as sponsors:

  1. Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tennessee
  2. Sen. Mike Rounds, R-South Dakota
  3. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina
  4. Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona
  5. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine
  6. Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa
  7. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska
  8. Sen. Richard Burr, R-North Carolina
  9. Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tennessee
  10. Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-Louisiana
  11. Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa
  12. Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Georgia
  13. Sen. Patty Murray, D-Washington
  14. Sen. Angus King, I-Maine
  15. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-New Hampshire
  16. Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-North Dakota
  17. Sen. Tom Carper, D-Delaware
  18. Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Missouri
  19. Sen. Al Franken, D-Minnesota
  20. Sen. Joe Donnelly, D-Indiana
  21. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minnesota
  22. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-West Virginia
  23. Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wisconsin
  24. Sen. Maggie Hassan, D-New Hampshire

Mike Rounds sponsoring a bill alongside Al Franken—Dakota War College is going to have a hard time posting that press release.

Speaking of which, why not? Here’s Senator Rounds’s attempt to keep it from sounding like he’s keeping Obamacare alive:

Sen. Mike Rounds
Sen. Mike Rounds

WASHINGTON— Following months of discussions between U.S. Sens. Mike Rounds (R-S.D.), Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and Angus King (I-Maine), Rounds made the following statement on the bipartisan Alexander/Murray legislation, which will give states additional flexibility to tailor their health insurance market to fit their individual needs. It also temporarily authorizes Cost Sharing Reduction (CSR) payments, which will protect consumers from even higher premiums and help stabilize the market in the near-term.

“Obamacare is a rapidly sinking ship,” said Rounds. “Our agreement will give us time to stabilize the market and provide meaningful flexibility and relief to states while we continue our efforts to repeal and replace Obamacare with a competitive, market-based health care system that is actually affordable. In the meantime, we protect low-income families from even higher premiums by temporarily continuing the CSR payments for two years. Meanwhile, we are making meaningful, permanent reforms to the 1332 waiver process, which will provide much-needed relief to states and allow them to tailor their health insurance markets to fit their individual needs. Empowering the states with new opportunities to innovate and strengthen their health insurance market is a significant step in the right direction.”

CSR payments are essentially a government subsidy for low-income individuals. Last week, President Trump announced the administration would stop making the monthly CSR payments, citing a May 2016 federal court ruling which found the payments were unconstitutional because Congress had not appropriated money for this purpose.

This legislation would provide permanent, significant reforms to Obamacare’s ‘1332 waivers.’ Due to House and Senate rules, the 1332 waiver changes outlined in the Alexander/Murray legislation are not eligible to be included in “budget reconciliation” legislation, which is the vehicle being used to repeal and replace Obamacare by congressional Republicans. Those efforts will continue. Alexander/Murray also modifies the affordability guardrails in a way that maintains patient protections but allows states to innovate and develop cheaper ways to cover more Americans.

It would also legally authorize the administration to temporarily continue CSR payments for two years, similar to the provisions of the Better Care Reconciliation Act, in which 49 GOP members of the U.S. Senate supported earlier this year.
Reforms to the 1332 Waiver Process Would:

  • Amend the law to provide meaningful flexibility for health plan designs;
  • Streamline the waiver approval process by letting governors apply for waivers without requiring state legislatures to pass an authorization law;
  • Allow for automatic approval of waivers if a state’s application is substantially similar to one already approved by federal authorities;
  • Cut the approval time at Health and Human Services (HHS) in half;
  • Provide additional fast-tracking opportunities for waivers in emergency circumstances; and
  • Allow for waivers to last longer than under current law (six years v. five years today) [Senator Marion Michael Rounds, press release, 2017.10.19].

That 1332 waiver reform could be stretched to read as another poke at Trump, since Trump has delayed 1332 waivers for Iowa and Oklahoma.

Let Senator Rounds keep spinning Alexander-Murray as a bridge to ACA repeal-and-replace. Greg Belfrage isn’t fooled, and neither should the rest of us be. The plain fact is that, after failing thrice to repeal Obamacare while his party controls Congress and the White House (and come on: would a “sinking ship” be that hard to torpedo?), Rounds is now backing a bill to do the opposite of what Trump promised to do: keep the Affordable Care Act afloat.

And keeping the Affordable Care Act alive really is the best policy. Good call, Senator Rounds!

17 Responses to Rounds Co-Sponsors Alexander-Murray to Keep ACA Alive

  1. Number 3 and number 10 on the list makes this perfectly clear that it is all about covering your backside. These two put together the Graham cracker and hop a long Cassidy bill to toss some gunk in the gears of the ACA to try to kill it. Having any of these guys as cosponsors is meaningless.
    This trumpcare will have to run its course with the republican on their own. They broke it, they live with it.

  2. I have to admit, I was shocked when I read this earlier, Rounds cosponsoring help to stabilize ACA? Shocked.

  3. What’s the significance of having 12 GOP Party co-sponsors? It means there is a 60 vote fillibuster-proof super majority. It also puts the pressure on McConnell to schedule it for a vote, and gives the other 40 GOP Party senators cover to vote against it to make their rabid radical base happy. Watch Trump flip flop like a fish again on this.

  4. Money in the hands of Corrupt SD to do with as they wish, what could possibly go wrong ?

  5. Nick Nemec

    If you leave them alone sinking ships sink.

  6. Does Fischer/Rounds sell ACA coverage?

  7. The next SD Senate election just got a little bit more interesting.

  8. I suppose one could consider Mikey “standing up to Trump”, but tomorrow, when Trump changes his mind AGAIN, they will be in agreement and all will be well in lala land.

  9. Number 10 on the list, lying Cassidy claims this “Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) said on Sunday that President Trump’s decision to end key ObamaCare payments known as cost-sharing reduction (CSR) benefits would help U.S. families.

    “If you take the totality of what the president did, I think it actually helps the family,” Cassidy said on “Fox News Sunday.”

    Having that ghoul in your corner is what a dog must feel like looking at the vet about to neuter him. While you pay your 40% higher premiums, thank the senate republicans for your screwing. Remember, they think it is fine for you to pony up.

  10. O, Fischer Rounds has a page where one can get a quote on individual health insurance:

    But our only vendors of ACA Marketplace policies in SD are Avera and Sanford. Folks, help me out: are other agencies able to direct buyers to Sanford or Avera and get a commission?

  11. Let 45 tank the funding- I found out why Rounds suddenly signed on to support this bill. Obama had written in the ACA another source of funding which would give free healthcare to many more people than are currently getting it if anyone decided to mess with the original funding.
    Now we know why Rounds is suddenly wanting to support the current funding- not because he cares but because it will give better coverage if 45 tanks the funding.

  12. Cory, all insurance brokers/agency’s/ agents etc. can sell whatever they want. You can drive down the street in Aberdeen and see Wellmark, Avera and Sanford signs together on any one of the sellers there. So yeah, no one is what is called a captive agent or agency any more and get paid commissions for doing so or in the case of Fisher/Rounds, wholesalers.
    Dakotacare and Wellmark are still in the ACA group market as is Sanford and Avera, so there is that. Group insurance still must follow the guidelines of ACA on new business. The old grandfathered and grandmothered plans do not follow those guidelines.
    In short, Rounds gets paid one way or the other.**

    ** Note. Senator John Thune is absent from this list because he could not spell ACA, just in case you were wondering why his name does not appear.

  13. Jerry Thank you for the last sentence in your post

  14. That’s an interesting twist, Robin! But would do insurers come out making the same money whether it comes from more premium tax credits or from cost-sharing reduction subsidies?

  15. Since a significantly more would drop out of the paid portion of ACA insurers and into the free category it would do two things-
    1)I would take a bite into insurance money since insurers would no longer have those people they would switch to the Federal medicaid insurance.
    2) It makes the budget harder to get past hard core deficit hawks because it would add to the Federal deficit.

  16. We are seeing the GOP split, disintegrate before our eyes, just like before the election.

    Rounds statement is complete tripe, an attempt to avoid eventual voter accountability for his evasive misrepresentation and obstruction of the ACA 1. He (his lawyers obviously wrote this PR) uses every avenue to point the blame at Democrats and the ACA (its proper name, not the derogatory Obama-bashing term the GOP has been commonly using in its successful MESSAGING propaganda for 8 or more long years). Repetition confuses the public, as in the new GOP/Russian “fake news” strategy. First, OBSTRUCTION, now FAKE NEWS. 2. Rounds then says “(CSR) payments, which will protect consumers from EVEN higher premiums and help STABALIZE (you mean after GOP and Trump have intentionally sabotaged the Marketplace in every conceivable way?) the market in the near-term.” (emphasis added) 3. Rather than acknowledge bipartisan co-sponsorship, he deceitfully calls it “OUR (GOP) ‘agreement’ …[for] time to stabilize the market and provide … flexibility and relief to states while WE continue OUR efforts to repeal and replace Obamacare….” Thank god Rounds showed up to save the states from the ACA’s hundreds of millions of dollars SD could have received to facilitate Medicaid expansion for SD medical care! 4. He goes on and on: “WE (GOP) protect low-income families from EVEN HIGHER premiums by temporarily continuing the CSR….” I think he means the middle class members making too much for premium assistance (ACA tax credits) , who will bear the brunt of the ‘penalty ‘ from Trump’s most recent idiocy, that Sen Patty Murray (D) has been begged to deliver us from, in a bi-partisan effort to protect ordinary Americans from being further devastated by Trump and GOP’s R/R (‘replace and repeal’ MESSAGING propaganda and sabotage), to come to the aid of the death-spiraling GOP, imo. 5. Then in mid-paragraph, Rounds switches to “permanent reforms to the 1332 waiver” which Daugaard has finally begun diddling with for the last year, after refusing Medicaid expansion, killing 30-90 residents annually, to try to rope in IHS money to muddy the water. “Meaningfully empowering states” is what Rounds calls it. I just can hear F-16s streaking overhead trailing red, white and blue contrails! (sigh). 6. Next, Rounds immediately jumps back into bad-mouthing the ACA, leaving readers with the dirty taste that “CSR payments are essentially a government SUBSIDY FOR LOW-INCOME individuals.” In a sense, dog-whistle verbiage for Red-neck conservatives in SD. 7. Swinging his bat again battering the ACA (the present law of the land btw), Rounds says: “Trump … would stop making the monthly CSR payments, citing a … federal court ruling [the effect of which however that court has STAYED pending Trump’s election, and that stay has still not yet been lifted] which found the payments were UNCONSTITUTIONAL (omg!!)….” Rounds is like a murderer in the dark swinging a blood spattered blunt object against his innocent victim’s head, again and again. 8. Repeal and replace, hell, Rounds is describing bipartisan REPAIR in the form of “permanent, significant reforms to Obamacare’s ‘1332 waivers’…[which are] not eligible to be included in ‘budget reconciliation’ …, which is the vehicle being used to repeal and replace Obamacare …. Those efforts will continue.” Rounds is saying (OBAMACARE three times in one sentence), ‘darn, the ACA won’t allow messing with waivers like GOP wants to with out 60 votes’, which is the continuing strategy of obstruction GOP has used for the last 8-9 years, including, outrageously, refusing to hear Obama’s Supreme Court nominee Mereck Garland (the STOLEN SEAT which Rounds aided and abetted). 9. Rounds repeats and tries to take credit to “continue CSR payments”, which are “similar to the provisions of the Better Care Reconciliation Act, in which 49 GOP members” actually got egg on their faces again for, in the second of the most recent failed attempts to ‘repeal and replace’ [(C) GOP]. Can you believe it? These Republicans want to get re-elected despite their 8-9 years of outright, yes, “unpatriotic” abuse of process , subterfuge and sabotage of our democratic system.

    HMMMM? Rounds concludes this co-sponsorship will: “Allow for waivers to last longer than under current law (six years v. five years today)….” Seems like GOP intends for the ACA to be around at least another six years. Sure doesn’t sound like “repeal and replace”!!

    10. “Sinking ship…” my ass! (Climate change science is merely a “belief” too for the GOP). In early August Rounds wrote me saying “Medicaid and small group and individual markets are not sustainable….no question that Obamacare is failing.” No mention of his complicit sabotage again, then, either.

    These Republicans and their child-president are going to get all of the rest of us killed one way or the other unless Mueller stops them sooner, or 2018 elections bring impeachment, nailing the GOP’s coffin.

    The ACA is clear: HHS must keep paying out cost-sharing reductions to insurers whether it wants to or not. Trump has no authority to destroy the ACA by rewriting it. The CSR cost-sharing money must keep flowing. If Trump wants to cut off those funds, he cannot merely sign an executive order.