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Sullivan remains a holdout on Senate’s bipartisan health care bill

  • Author: Erica Martinson
  • Updated: October 30, 2017
  • Published October 29, 2017

WASHINGTON — Alaska Sen. Dan Sullivan has not yet decided whether to support bipartisan Senate health care legislation designed to provide limited fixes to the Affordable Care Act, he said in an interview.

Sullivan remains reluctant, despite firm support from Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski, a co-sponsor and key negotiator on the Bipartisan Health Care Stabilization Act of 2017. The bill is better known as "Alexander-Murray," after its authors, Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, the chair of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pension Committee, and Washington Sen. Patty Murray, the committee's top Democrat.

Sullivan said he was reviewing the new report on the legislation released by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) Wednesday. He characterized his position on the bill as neither for nor against at the moment.

Alexander "worked hard on it and the numbers kind of look positive in terms of what CBO came out with," Sullivan said, remarking on the estimated $3.8 billion in federal savings estimated by the nonpartisan CBO report.

The legislation would fund cost share reduction payments to insurance companies for several years and expand options for states that want a "waiver" program like the one Alaska used under the Affordable Care Act to bring its individual market premiums down 20 percent in 2018.

Unlike Murkowski, Sullivan voted in favor of each of the Republican party's attempted Obamacare roll-back bills offered this summer.

Alaska's junior senator said he still had concerns about the Alexander-Murray bill because of a general reluctance among Democrats to offer new flexibilities for Obamacare requirements. He also hopes to possibly continue negotiations on the bill, he said.

"Initially, the Democrats weren't providing hardly any flexibility. They're providing some more now, which I think is important," Sullivan said.

Sullivan said he is concerned about provisions of the ACA that have been repeatedly delayed, such as the employer mandate and the "Cadillac tax" on high-cost plans.

"And now some of that stuff's going to come home to roost, all of which I oppose. So is there an opportunity to say, 'hmm, maybe I'm for Murray Alexander if we can get the employer mandate removed permanently? So I'm still looking at it hard," Sullivan said.

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