Murkowski says vote on current tax bill should wait until individual insurance markets are stabilized

U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski.

The Senate’s GOP leaders probably thought they had a winning formula to force Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski into finally voting to dismantle the Affordable Care Act.

The current Senate tax proposal includes both a repeal of the ACA’s individual mandate to buy insurance and provisions to begin opening the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to drilling. It was shaping up to be a difficult decision for the moderate senator. She would have to choose between the least-popular, but critical part of an insurance system that she’s defended and one of the biggest wins an Alaska politician can bring home (which is setting aside all the incredibly unpopular tax provisions of the tax bill).

It turns out that it’s not that easy to paint Murkowski into a corner.

Murkowski proved her political skill in making a bold counter offer, which she suggested in interviews late Thursday. She’ll vote for the tax bill, including the repeal of the individual mandate to buy insurance that the GOP added this week, once the Senate approves the bipartisan fix for Obamacare known as Alexander-Murray.

“I think that there is a path and I think the path is a reasonable path,” Murkowski said in an interview reported by Roll Call. “If the Congress is going to move forward with repeal of the individual mandate, we absolutely must have the Alexander-Murray piece that is passed into law.”

The Alexander-Murray legislation would guarantee cost sharing reduction (CSR) subsidies that President Donald Trump has already cut off and offer states greater flexibility to adopt tailored insurance market fixes like Alaska’s reinsurance program. The legislation has been popular with moderates Republicans and Democrats, but has been continually sidelined by Republican efforts for an all-out repeal of Obamacare.

The provisions of Alexander-Murray could, taken together, more than offset the hikes that repealing the individual mandate would have on premiums. The repeal of the individual mandate could spike premiums by as much as 10 percent because fewer healthy people would have to buy insurance, according to Congressional Budget Office estimates. Alaska’s reinsurance program, which Alexander-Murray would make easy for other states to adopt, saved Alaskans more than 22 percent on premiums and Trump’s decision to end cost-sharing subsidies is expected to spike insurance rates by 20 percent.

Murkowski’s proposal is a reasonable compromise between the politically driven effort to undo the Affordable Care Act and efforts to fix the flaws of the Affordable Care Act. It also helps Republicans, to a limited extent, with the balancing a tax bill that favors big corporations and the wealthy at an increasingly obvious cost to the poor and middle-class, a reality that Murkowski is clearly aware of.

“There is a path forward. It just means that some who have said some nasty things about CSRs are maybe just going to have to acknowledge that, well, this might be the way that you thread this needle,” she said. “If that tax cut is offset by higher premiums, you haven’t delivered benefit.”

3 Comments on "Murkowski says vote on current tax bill should wait until individual insurance markets are stabilized"

  1. Triangulation did not work for Clinton and it will not work for Murkowski. A moderated ACA is not justification to opening the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling. The value of one natural resource -oil- is declining. The value of another natural resource is increasing every day -tourism for wild lands and wildlife.

  2. Of course it will only help them in the very very short term, and then it will cause insurance rates to go up as the younger and healthier adults quit buying into the program.

    While Murkowski isn’t the worst of the Republicans in congress who stand by and let our democracy be attacked and weakened by an aspiring dictator, she certainly isn’t the “hero senator” that one would hope for……the one that this country deserves. Every congressman should be standing up like Jeff Flake, Bob Corker, and John McCain, and loudly defending our republic from the daily assaults by Donald Trump, his family, and his crooked political cohorts. But the vast majority in the current congress have shown their true colors……it’s all about their own ability to get re-elected, to hang onto power.

    How disgusting that our nation is being led by people who seem to have the same moral fortitude as those who fill our prisons.

    Hopefully, there will be a decent challenger in Murkowski’s next primary. We need to replace these partisans with people who will defend our country from election tampering by other governments, who will defend our state department and our standing in the world, who will defend women’s rights, and who will protect the EPA from climate denying whack-a-doodles
    ]
    That person is not Lisa Murkowski. She has proven time and again that she will go along with the worst elements in the Senate if they happen to be in power. What we need is to replace Lisa Murkowski with somebody who has a SPINE.

    • Murkowski is in thrall to the McConnell Republicans. She will trade women, the economy, the environment and what is left of her honor in return for opening the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to destruction by oil exploration and drilling. Sad.

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