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Senators push forward with bipartisan Obamacare fix -- and Trump's encouragement

Lisa Mascaro, Tribune Washington Bureau on

Published in Health & Fitness

WASHINGTON -- Despite President Donald Trump's mixed messages, key senators unveiled their bipartisan plan Thursday to stabilize health insurance markets, drawing widespread support.

Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., chairman of the Senate Health committee, and the top Democrat on the panel, Sen. Patty Murray of Washington, jointly announced 22 bipartisan co-sponsors to their effort, more than typical for a bill.

Alexander noted that Trump, too, continued to encourage him to push forward. The president called the senator twice Wednesday, even after speaking critically of the plan.

"I want to thank him for his encouragement," Alexander said.

Eleven Republican and 11 Democratic senators joined in backing their bill, which would extend for two years federal payments to insurers that offset subsidies they must offer to help low-income Americans. In exchange, Republicans want to make it easier for insurers to offer cheaper plans and those that deviate from certain regulations.

Trump has cut off the payments but told Alexander he would be willing to reinstate them, the senator said.

The compromise also has drawn support from more than two dozen groups representing health care advocates, patients and providers.

Among those backing the bill, Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, said she not only supports the policy, but the opportunity it provides for Congress to show, "at a time when things are a little tense ... that we can come together. We can demonstrate the ability to govern."

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