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House "Problem Solvers" Agree on Obamacare Fixes

Chicago Tribune

U.S. Rep. Dan Lipinski of Western Springs was the only Illinois Democrat in Congress to vote against the Affordable Care Act in 2010.

But in the week after the Senate’s failure to repeal Obamacare, Lipinski on Monday touted a bipartisan agreement he and others in what's called the House Problem Solvers Caucus just hammered out. U.S. Rep. Adam Kinzinger, a Republican from Channahon, and Rep. Brad Schneider, a Democrat from Deerfield, also belong to the 43-member caucus.

With the House on recess, the group has set out principles that Lipinski hopes the Senate runs with. Senators won’t recess until later in August.

The lawmakers would amend the ACA’s employer mandate to impact firms with 500 or more full-time employees, not 50. A full-time employee would be someone working at least 40 hours a week, not 30 hours.

The group would ax the 2.3 percent sales tax on medical devices. And it would appropriate money for cost-sharing reduction payments to insurers — payments the Trump administration may end. The payments total about $7 billion this year, helping to reduce deductibles and co-payments for people with modest incomes. Without the payments, premiums in the ACA exchanges would rise by 15 percent to 20 percent in 2018, Lipinski said.

The caucus also would spend about $110 billion over 10 years to help states facilitate reinsurance programs for high-cost enrollees, he said.

Lipinski, 51, entered the House in 2005. He said in an interview that he’s tired of in-fighting and the blame game, and that Democratic leaders are wagering that Republicans will be blamed if Obamacare implodes, and vice versa.

“That could lead both sides to say, ‘Let it fail,’” said Lipinski, who worries about people who for years have relied on the health care law.

The group's proposal is hardly a done deal, but he notes: “It would be the first time since the Affordable Care Act was passed that we really did anything in a bipartisan manner on health care.”