Suozzi touts bipartisan health care fixes

Suozzi touts bipartisan health care fixes
U.S. Rep. Tom Suozzi (D-Glen Cove) aided in attaining a 16-month extension for the City of Glen Cove to launch its ferry service to Manhattan. (Photo courtesy of Tom Suozzi)

U.S. Rep. Tom Suozzi (D-Glen Cove) helped unveil a bipartisan bill Monday that he called a major step toward fixing American health care policy.

The bill, proposed by the 43-member Problem Solvers Caucus, of which Suozzi is vice chairman, aims to stabilize health insurance markets by altering parts of the Affordable Care Act.

While it’s not “the whole solution” to nationwide health care problems, Suozzi said the five-point plan represents a bold departure from Republican congressional leaders’ efforts to repeal the health care law with little or no debate.

“This is an oasis in a desert of dysfunction,” Suozzi said Monday on a phone call with reporters. “People want us to work like this across party lines.”

The bill aims to shore up the Affordable Care Act’s mandate that every American have health insurance and stop big hikes to premiums, Suozzi said.

The proposals include:

  • Mandating funding for subsidies to the federal insurance marketplace, known as cost-sharing reduction payments, and bringing them under congressional oversight. President Donald Trump has threatened to stop funding these subsidies.
  • Create a fund allowing states to incentivize insurance companies to stay in public marketplaces.
  • Increase the threshold requiring companies to provide insurance to 500 from 50 employees, a proposal Suozzi said Republicans in the caucus pushed.
  • Repeal the 2.3 percent sales tax on medical devices.
  • Make other technical changes encouraging states to experiment with ways to increase competition and consumer choice in local markets.

The Problem Solvers Caucus wants the bill, which was drafted over about three weeks, to get regular hearings in congressional committees before going to the floor for a vote, Suozzi said.

Bipartisan support may help the bill as it moves into that process, he said. Rep. Tom Reed (R-Corning), the caucus chair, sits on the House of Representatives’ Ways and Means Committee, one of a few that Suozzi said will deal with the bill.

The proposal aligns with Suozzi’s campaign promises last year to reach across the aisle to get things done, and to repair the Affordable Care Act without tossing it out entirely.

Senate Republicans’ failure last week to repeal portions of former President Barack Obama’s landmark law created an opportunity for such centrist reform, Suozzi said.

“It kind of opened up a whole new opportunity for us to say, ‘Listen, this is not working,'” he said.

Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), the House minority leader, praised the caucus’ bill Monday, saying Republican leadership should similarly work with Democrats to fix the Affordable Care Act.

The next step on health care is uncertain in the Senate, which has been leading the charge on the issue in recent weeks. Republican leaders are unlikely to take up the issue again in the near future, Politico reported Monday.

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