Health bill in doubt after Trump pulls support

WASHINGTON (AP) — A bipartisan Senate deal to curb the growth of health insurance premiums is reeling after President Donald Trump reversed course and opposed the agreement and top congressional Republicans and conservatives gave it a frosty reception.

Sens. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., and Patty Murray, D-Wash., announced their accord Tuesday after weeks of negotiations and five days after Trump said he was halting federal subsidies to insurers. Under the lawmakers’ agreement, the payments would continue for two years while states were given more leeway to let insurers sidestep some coverage requirements imposed by President Barack Obama’s health care law.

In remarks Tuesday in the Rose Garden, Trump called the deal “a very good solution” that would calm insurance markets, giving him time to pursue his goal of scrapping Obama’s 2010 Affordable Care Act, the target of Republican derision since it was signed into law.

Although top Democrats and some Republicans praised the Alexander-Murray compromise agreement, Trump backed off after a day of criticism from many in the GOP.

In an evening speech at the conservative Heritage Foundation, he said that “while I commend” the work by the two senators, “I continue to believe Congress must find a solution to the Obamacare mess instead of providing bailouts to insurance companies.”

A White House official said Trump’s statement was aimed at conveying opposition to the Alexander-Murray plan. The official spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations.

The subsidies — called cost-sharing reductions — go to insurers for reducing out-of-pocket costs for lower-income people. Since Obama’s law requires insurers to make those cost reductions, insurers and others have warned that halting the subsidies would force premiums higher and prompt some carriers to abandon unprofitable markets.

“This agreement avoids chaos,” Alexander said when he announced the deal. “I don’t know a Republican or Democrat who benefits from chaos.”

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