Carper, Coons demand bipartisan effort on health care fix

Chris Coons

14 dsn Carper by .

Thomas R. Carper

DOVER — Obamacare stayed in place early Friday morning.

But, it remains subject to change.

That’s according to Delaware‘s elected federal officials — all Democrats.

While the current Affordable Care Act survived multiple Senate votes, leaders agreed that current health care law must improve.

“We now have a chance to hit the pause button, turn the page, and start to work together,” U.S. Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del., said.

“What we need to do is stabilize the state insurance exchanges and there are three things we need to do to achieve that: create a reinsurance program like the one that is created by legislation I introduced with Sen. Tim Kaine, enforce the individual mandate or something like the individual mandate, and continue subsidies for those low-income folks in the exchanges.”

The best changes must come through a bipartisan effort, Delaware’s senior lawmaker said.

“When we can work together using the best ideas from both sides, the American people come out ahead,” according the Sen. Carper, 70.

The final vote for a partial repeal failed by a 49-51 vote keyed by three Republicans who who abandoned their leaders and joined a unanimous stand by Senate Democrats.

Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester (D-Del) called the votes of GOP Sens. John McCain (Arizona), Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) and Susan Collins (Maine) “courageous” in “rejecting this extreme bill.

“The message Americans across the political spectrum sent was clear: protect or health care, find bipartisan solutions for lowering costs, and preserving the programs that are working,” she said.

U.S. Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.) pointed to three versions introduced.

“There wasn’t one coherent policy proposal which frankly shows that the Republican party wasn’t serious about replacing the (ACA) since they had run against it for seven years,” he said. “I think at this point President Trump was more eager for a partisan political win that a real solution. Fortunately, a number of Republican senators said that’s now what we’re interested in.

“They’re interested in getting a real solution to problems with the healthcare system which will require bipartisan support to address the issues.”

Needs to improve

While the ACA experienced some success after its rollout “it cost more than was expected,” said Sen. Coons, 53.

Speedier access to healthcare and expanding access to affordable high quality healthcare highlighted the ACA, the senator insisted.

In Delaware and at least 12 other states, however, Sen. Coons said an ACA exchange involving just one insurance company “is not sustainable.”

On Monday, Sen. Coons said he planned to make proposals moving forward as will other lawmakers to figure “how we can work in bipartisan fashion.”

A unified front is possible, Sen. Coons said, evidenced by a 97-2 vote on a Russian sanctions bill during a break from the healthcare struggles.

“It was about as strong a vote on the Senate floor was we’ve seen this year,” the Democrat said. “I think one of the consequences of a Trump presidency is making the Senate great again.”

Sen. Coons also noted what he called a “lot of time and effort” Sen. Carper invested to build support, including flying to the National Governor’s Association conference to in Providence, Rhode Island, to persuade.

“In addition to the fact that this bill would have radically changed our health care system with 16 million Americans losing health insurance, it was only unveiled several hours before the vote,” Rep. Blunt Rochester said.

“Fortunately, enough of my friends on the other side of the aisle agreed that this is not how our country should make decisions of this magnitude. Doctors, patients, families, hospitals, and stakeholders should be able to weigh in on best practices and innovative solutions.

“I continue believing that the best path forward is working together toward a bipartisan solution that will serve all Americans.”

The most vulnerable

The Medical Society of Delaware “has clearly been against recent proposals to replace or repeal,” President Dr. Prayus Tailor said Friday, “which would have left millions of people without insurance, and hitting the most vulnerable, including those on Medicaid” particularly hard.”

Though the Medical Society of Delaware believes in having “as many Delawareans if not all covered under a plan that provides baseline services for everybody, how you get there is the crux of the issue.

“How to finance it is what everyone is struggling with.”

On Friday, Delaware Gov. John Carney issued a statement that read:

“Any changes to our health care system should focus on expanding access to quality health care and reducing costs. We can’t shift health care costs onto the most vulnerable among us, and cause premiums to rise dramatically for hardworking Delaware families.

“I am relieved that the U.S. Senate voted against changes to our health care system that would have endangered coverage for thousands of Delawareans who have benefited from that connection to care through the health insurance marketplace and the Medicaid expansion.

“Now, I urge Congress to shift its focus to make quality health care more affordable for more people. At the state level, I will continue to work closely with my Cabinet Secretary for the Department of Health and Social Services and the General Assembly on ways to reduce overall health care spending and tie that spending more closely to achieving positive outcomes.”

According to Delaware Department of Health and Social Services Secretary Dr. Kara Odom Walker in a statement earlier in the week, Senate proposals threatened “the health and independence of many of the 27,000 people who receive coverage through Delaware’s Health Insurance Marketplace and the 225,000 Delawareans who depend on Medicaid for their health care and supportive services, including seniors in nursing homes, individuals with disabilities, and children and adults in low-income households.”

Dr. Walker pushed for finding ways to transform current health care law that so “won’t take health insurance and health care away from people in our state and across the country, but will provide more people with choice and options that are affordable.”

Reach staff writer Craig Anderson at canderson@newszap.com

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