Business & Tech

Governor Baker to speak at US Senate hearing on health care

Governor Charlie Baker will be one of five governors to testify.

Keith Bedford/Globe Staff

Governor Charlie Baker will be one of five governors to testify.

Governor Charlie Baker will testify before US senators in Washington next month as they consider ways to stabilize health insurance markets roiled by efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act.

Insurers in Massachusetts and across the country are concerned that they will lose billions of dollars in federal payments that help offset coverage costs for lower-income Americans.

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Insurers in Massachusetts are expecting $132 million next year in payments, known as cost-sharing reductions, which subsidize insurance for 155,000 people who get their coverage on the state’s insurance exchange. President Trump, whose administration has authority over the payments, has repeatedly threatened to yank them, even though many Republicans and Democrats say that would destabilize insurance markets and drive up premiums.

Baker is one of five governors scheduled to speak at a Sept. 7 hearing convened by Senate health committee chairman Lamar Alexander, a Tennessee Republican, and the committee’s top Democrat, Patty Murray of Washington. The committee will hear from state insurance commissioners on Sept. 6.

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“Any solution that Congress passes for a 2018 stabilization package will have to be small, bipartisan and balanced,” Alexander said in a statement this week. “It should give states more flexibility in approving insurance policies. . . as well as fund the cost-sharing reduction payments to help stabilize premiums for 2018.”

Baker, a former chief executive of Harvard Pilgrim Health Care, has broken with other Republicans who want to dismantle the Affordable Care Act.

“Governor Baker looks forward to testifying alongside a bipartisan group of governors on his concerns and ideas for how Washington can collaboratively approach federal health care reforms in a way that provides flexibility and cost control for states,” Brendan Moss, a spokesman for Baker, said in a statement.

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Baker will speak along with governors Steve Bullock of Montana, Bill Haslam of Tennessee, Gary Herbert of Utah, and John W. Hickenlooper of Colorado.

“I’m hoping Governor Baker, given his background in health care, can paint a picture for the Senate relative to what states need for flexibility,” said Lora M. Pellegrini, president of the Massachusetts Association of Health Plans, which represents insurers. “We need stability around the CSR payments. We can’t be living with this month-to-month threat of losing payments.”

Amid uncertainty about the payments, the Massachusetts Division of Insurance has delayed approving 2018 insurance rates. If the federal payments end, insurers are expected to sharply raise premiums.

Priyanka Dayal McCluskey can be reached at priyanka.mccluskey@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @priyanka_dayal.
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