Senator Johnson suggests compromise on health care

Washington (CNN) Republican Sen. Ron Johnson said Sunday he believed Congress could reach an agreement on health care that includes continuing the funding of a key set of Obamacare subsidies to keep down insurance premiums.

The conservative Wisconsin senator said in an interview on CNN's "State of the Union" that he understands some of his Republican colleagues are against funding the cost-sharing reduction -- or CSR -- payments. But he said the government should keep making the payments to prevent the cost of insurance skyrocketing.

President Trump has not committed to paying insurers the cost-sharing subsidies, which reduce deductibles and co-pays for low-income Obamacare enrollees. This has prompted many insurers to raise their premiums for 2018 to make up for the anticipated loss of the subsidies. The 2018 rates have already been finalized.

Johnson added that any such move to support continuing those payments would come with strings attached.

"We should get something in return for that," he said.

For example, he said, Congress should make it so anyone has the option to purchase a "catastrophic plan" -- insurance with relatively low premiums but high deductibles that provides fewer benefits.

Johnson also said they should make health savings accounts more usable.

"There's a number of things that I would certainly agree to," Johnson said.

President Donald Trump on Saturday said he spoke with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer about health care the day prior, telling reporters at the White House that it would be "great" if the leaders could strike at least a temporary deal on health care.

Asked about the call by CNN's Jake Tapper on Sunday, Johnson said he was not troubled by Trump's overture to the Senate's top Democrat, noting later in the interview that any compromise would have to pass the Republican-controlled Congress.

"If people really want to do a deal, they are going to have to come through a Republican House and a Republican Senate," Johnson said.

Johnson was a key player in a last-ditch effort to repeal and replace much of Obamacare last month. The bill failed to gain enough support among Senate Republicans to be passed under a special legislative maneuver known as budget reconciliation.

Johnson contended Sunday that the bill, led by GOP Sens. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, was still alive and that senators had simply run out of time to pass it.

A bipartisan group of senators, led by Lamar Alexander, a Republican from Tennessee, and Patty Murray, a Democrat from Washington, are working on a deal to stabilize Obamacare. Among the issues on the table are funding of the cost-sharing subsidies and broadening the number of people who can buy catastrophic plans.

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