Senators Seek ACA Stabilization Bill with Opioid Funding; HHS Sec. Azar Confirmed

January 26, 2018

A bipartisan group of Senators has called on Congress to pass a health care bill to provide funding to stabilize the individual market and help reduce the opioid crisis as part of either the next short-term funding bill or the longer-term omnibus appropriations bill.  Specifically, Sens. Susan Collins (R-ME), Lamar Alexander (R-TN), Patty Murray (D-WA), and Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) are seeking funding for the Affordable Care Act's (ACA's) cost-sharing reduction subsidy payments, state reinsurance programs, and to combat the opioid epidemic.  GOP House members have also called for the legislation to include expanded health savings accounts.  House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) has said there might be an opportunity for a bipartisan deal to shore up the ACA’s insurance markets.  While it is unclear whether, or when, these provisions may be considered, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) previously promised Sen. Collins he would bring a similar bill to the Senate floor early this year.  Separately, the Senate confirmed Alex Azar as Health and Human Services Secretary.  During his confirmation hearing, Mr. Azar mentioned that his priorities would include addressing high drug prices while encouraging innovation, making health care more affordable and available, shifting from paying for procedures to paying for outcomes in Medicare, and tackling the opioid epidemic.