Murkowski says Senate should work with Dems on ACA reform

In a statement released on Tuesday, July 18, Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, reiterated that she would work with Democrats to address failures in the Affordable Care Act. She also said she would not vote to proceed on ACA repeal without a bill addressing the concerns she had about health care access and affordability for Alaskans.

Murkowski issued the statement after U.S. Senate Republican leaders announced their plan to proceed to repeal of the ACA — also known as Obamacare — without a replacement. The previous Senate bill, called the Better Care Reconciliation Act, stalled after at least four Senators said they would not vote yes on the bill. To pass without Democratic Party support, any bill would need at least 50 Republican senators out of 52 to succeed, assuming a tie-breaking vote from Vice-President Mike Pence.

“As I’ve been saying, the Senate should take a step back and engage in a bipartisan process to address the failures of the ACA and stabilize the individual markets. That will require members on both sides of the aisle to roll up their sleeves and take this to the open committee process where it belongs,” Murkowski said in the statement.

Murkowski cited deficiencies in ACA’s effect on Alaskans as to why she supports reform.

“The individual market in states like Alaska and in rural communities across America has continued to deteriorate since we last voted to repeal the Affordable Care Act. Alaskans have seen their premiums increase over 200 percent, only one insurer remains on our individual market, and the state was forced to enact a costly reinsurance program to keep our sole remaining provider from leaving,” she said.

“At the same time, the coverage offered on the exchange has become coverage in name only for too many Alaskans with premiums close to $1,000 a month on average and many facing deductibles approaching $10,000. Repealing the ACA without a clear path forward just creates confusion and greater uncertainty.”

Murkowski elaborated on what an ACA reform bill would look like that she could support.

“As I stated earlier this year, I cannot vote to proceed to repeal the ACA without reform that allows people the choice they want, the affordability they need and the quality of care they deserve.”

Her latest statement is consistent with what she told constituents at a town meeting held in Homer on July 7, where she said she would support bipartisan reform efforts. She also said she did not care if health care reform involved a new bill or an add-on to ACA.

“I think people want to know that we have worked to make things better for them and their families when it comes to affordability and access to health care,” she said in Homer.

Michael Armstrong can be reached at michael.armstrong@homernews.com.

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