John Hickenlooper, Ohio Gov. John Kasich release their bipartisan plan to address health care

Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper and his Republican counterpart from Ohio, John Kasich, on Thursday morning released their bipartisan plan to stabilize the individual health insurance market.

The framework, outlined in a seven-page letter dated Wednesday and sent to Congressional leadership, is also signed by six other governors. It includes recommendations that the controversial individual mandate stay in place for at least the immediate future and that Congress create tax exemptions for insurance carriers who offer plans in under-served counties.

“As Congress considers reforms to strengthen our nation’s health insurance system, we ask you to take immediate steps to make coverage more stable and affordable,” the letter says. “The current state of our individual market is unsustainable and we can all agree this is a problem that needs to be fixed. Governors have already made restoring stability and affordability in this market a priority, and we look forward to partnering with you in this effort.”

Other signatories of the letter (a copy of which is at the bottom of this article) are Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf, Alaska Gov. Bill Walker, Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edward and Montana Gov. Steve Bullock.

The letter was sent to Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer.

The letter includes a framework for how to address everything from broad topics like controlling health care costs and creating federal-state partnerships, to improving the regulatory environment and stabilizing risk pools.

Among their recommendations are:

  • The Trump administration should commit to making cost sharing reduction payments to keep premiums from going up 20-25 percent and increasing the federal deficit
  • Congress should create a temporary stability fund for states to create reinsurance programs that reduce premiums
  • Congress should encourage health insurance companies to enter undeserved counties by exempting insurers that do so from the federal health insurance tax on their exchange plans in those counties
  • Keep the individual mandate (for now) to prevent the rapid exit of carriers from the market
  • Maximize market participation by encouraging young people to get insurance
  • Modify and strengthen federal risk sharing mechanisms, including risk adjustments and reinsurance to stabilize risk pools

Kasich and Hickenlooper also outlined ways the federal government can better work with each other on reforms, like by not duplicating efforts tor preempt state authority to regulate health insurance.

Hickenlooper is expected to speak about the letter and his plans with Kasich during an 11 a.m. news conference at the Colorado capitol building.

Kasich and Hickenlooper have been working together for months to push for a bipartisan solution to health care. The pair has been working behind the scenes for the past several weeks to develop the blueprint released Thursday.

Hickenlooper and Kasich began to form their alliance in March and tasked their health care experts to craft a series of common principles to guide the discussions and build a larger coalition. Hickenlooper took the lead on bringing other Democratic governors to the table, and Kasich did the same with Republicans.

Pelosi told The Denver Post in a meeting with reporters and the editorial board on Wednesday that Kasich and Hickenlooper are highly respected in Congress, which gives them credibility in the broader health care discussion which remains ongoing after Republicans failed to repeal the Affordable Care Act. She said she agrees with efforts from the governors to address cost-sharing payments to insurance companies and reinsurance for the most sick enrollees.

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