Manchin, Collins introduce legislation regarding health insurance costs

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., is cosponsoring legislation aimed at making health care insurance more affordable by funding stabilization programs and pools for high-risk individuals.

Manchin and Maine Republican Susan Collins introduced the Premium Reduction Act of 2019 this week, which would allow states to add coverage options currently not available nationwide under former President Barack Obama’s health care law.

The bill would provide $500 million for states to prepare applications for stabilization programs, as well as $5 billion for the following three years to support state market programs.

In addition, the legislation includes an accelerated approval of state pool models; the programs would provide high-risk individuals with insurance coverage without increasing rates for most people.

Seven states, including Maine, have similar programs.

According to a Friday release from Manchin’s office, the legislation would lower premiums by 30% in the individual marketplace.

“The Affordable Care Act has provided healthcare for the first time to millions of Americans and hundreds of thousands of West Virginians, including people living with a pre-existing condition,” Manchin said in a joint press release. “It’s for that reason that I have always been against repealing the Affordable Care Act, but I have never and will never pretend that it’s perfect. That’s why I’ve been working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to come up with bipartisan solutions that will make healthcare more affordable and more accessible for all Americans.”

Collins noted health care costs are a burden on millions of families.

“Despite the frustration and division surrounding health care reform, many members from both sides of the aisle are committed to reducing health costs. I urge our colleagues to join Senator Manchin and me in supporting this bill, which would help extend and fund insurance programs that we know will save affected Americans money,” she said.

Collins previously introduced a similar bill with former Florida Sen. Bill Nelson, who lost in his reelection bid in November. Manchin told MetroNews in April he would introduce identical legislation with Collins.

The measure comes a month after Manchin and Collins wrote a letter to Attorney General William Barr asking for the Justice Department to drop its support of a ruling on “Obamacare;” Judge Reed O’Connor ruled in December the law and its individual mandate are unconstitutional. The 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans is reviewing the decision, with arguments scheduled to begin July 9.

West Virginia is among the states suing to have the law overturned. Then-Maine Gov. Paul LePage signed onto the lawsuit, but current Gov. Janet Mills declined further involvement after taking office.

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