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McCaskill seeks way to cover about 40 Missouri counties that may lose individual ACA insurers

Sen. Claire McCaskill in May 2017
Provided | Office of Senator Claire McCaskill
McCaskill, a Democrat, is sponsoring legislation aimed at protecting people who live in counties that no longer have insurers who sell individual health insurance policies under the ACA.

U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill said Thursday she thinks it’s important for Congress to “repair, not repeal” the federal Affordable Care Act, which she says is under threat by the Trump administration’s hints that it won’t continue to pay subsidies to participating insurance companies.

About 40 counties in Missouri have only one insurer participating in the Affordable Care Act’s insurance marketplace.

McCaskill, a Democrat, is sponsoring legislation aimed at protecting people who live in counties that no longer have insurers who sell individual health insurance policies under the ACA. Her bill would allow those individuals to instead purchase insurance through the same Washington-based program used by members of Congress and their congressional staffs. That insurance system covers congressional staff members all over the country.

“So in many ways, this solution is elegant, because it gives people who don’t have an option the same options that members of Congress and their staffs get,” she said.

McCaskill said she fears some insurers are pulling out because the Trump administration has signaled it may unilaterally end the federal subsidy payments. Those payments, in the billions of dollars, encourage the companies to offer insurance at affordable prices. Some Republicans contend that system has failed.

It’s unclear whether her bill will gain any traction in the Republican-controlled Senate and House, but McCaskill said she is hoping for bipartisan support. She opposes the GOP alternative health insurance bill passed by the House, which all sides agree will result in higher premium costs and lost coverage for millions of Americans. U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt, a Republican, has declined to comment on the House bill, noting that the Senate will craft its own health care bill.

“I’m not interested in just throwing stones, I’m ready to work with anyone to improve health care for Missourians,” McCaskill said during a conference call Thursday. “The individual insurance market in Missouri needs fixing—and I think letting Missourians who don’t have access to a local insurance provider get the same plans that Congress gets, is a solid step that Republicans and Democrats can get behind.”

McCaskill and her staff noted that there already are counties in some states where there no longer are any insurance companies that offer individual policies on the federal marketplace.

Jo Mannies has been covering Missouri politics and government for almost four decades, much of that time as a reporter and columnist at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. She was the first woman to cover St. Louis City Hall, was the newspaper’s second woman sportswriter in its history, and spent four years in the Post-Dispatch Washington Bureau. She joined the St. Louis Beacon in 2009. She has won several local, regional and national awards, and has covered every president since Jimmy Carter. She scared fellow first-graders in the late 1950s when she showed them how close Alaska was to Russia and met Richard M. Nixon when she was in high school. She graduated from Valparaiso University in northwest Indiana, and was the daughter of a high school basketball coach. She is married and has two grown children, both lawyers. She’s a history and movie buff, cultivates a massive flower garden, and bakes banana bread regularly for her colleagues.

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