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Sen. Murphy: Democrats Have "No Voice" In Health Care Reform

Senator Chris Murphy

Connecticut Democratic Senator Chris Murphy is calling out Republicans for the secrecy surrounding the crafting of legislation reforming health care. And he condemned the Trump administration for what he said is an effort to sabotage the Affordable Care Act.

Senate Republicans are known to be skeptical of the bill recently passed by their House colleagues, the American Health Care Act.

Murphy said that’s no surprise -- and he, too, has nothing but disdain for the way that legislation was arrived at.

“It’s simply unbelievable that the House of Representatives decided to re-order one fifth of the American economy without reading the proposal or understanding its cost,” Murphy said Thursday on the floor of the Senate.

He claims now a small group of Republican senators is meeting in secret to offer an alternative.

But Murphy wants to see his own party at the table.

“If you’re represented by Democrats in the United States Senate, you have no voice in this process, because Republicans have chosen to do it just amongst their own party. I think that’s a shame,” the senator said.

Murphy conceded that health care costs are still too high under the Affordable Care Act, and there isn’t enough competition on exchanges. He said it’s time for both parties to come together to craft solutions.

Murphy went on to condemn what he called the "routine, almost daily attacks... that this administration has waged against the Affordable Care Act. This is purposeful; this is intentional; this is planned." 

He pointed to the announcement from the IRS that it would not reject tax forms from filers who refused to answer questions about whether they had health insurance, effectively undermining the individual mandate. He said insurers around the country are increasing rates because of the uncertainty around the enforcement of the mandate.

Murphy also highlighted the Trump administration's continuing failure to commit in the long term to cost-sharing subsidies. Those are payments directly to insurance companies that cover co-pays and deductibles for low-income consumers.

Under those circumstances, "how would you make a decision on how much to charge consumers? Why would you enter into a contract with a state or federal based exchange?" said Murphy.

Meanwhile, the uncertainty at the federal level is causing some angst at the state’s exchange, Access Health CT.

The Connecticut Mirror reported that the exchange will now allow insurers extra time to decide whether they’ll return to offer plans in 2018. Previously, the deadline had been July 1; now that’s extended to September 1.

Connecticare and Anthem have both filed rate requests for plans next year, but the insurers said they want to preserve the right to either change rates or pull out entirely if there are material changes in the federal government’s approach.

Harriet Jones is Managing Editor for Connecticut Public Radio, overseeing the coverage of daily stories from our busy newsroom.

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