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Policy experts aren't so sure Alexander-Murray is a good deal any more. Photo: Carolyn Kaster/AP

Just a few weeks ago, the Affordable Care Act stabilization bill from Sens. Lamar Alexander and Patty Murray looked like a common-sense fix with a decent shot at finding its way into Congress' big end-of-the-year package. But that was before Republicans were on the cusp of repealing the individual mandate. Now the bill's constituency is eroding — on every front.

The bottom line: I asked several of the smartest experts around whether they'd rather enter this new reality with or without Alexander-Murray. They were unanimous — they'd rather take their chances without it, keeping higher premium subsidies instead.

  • Democrats liked Alexander-Murray on its own, but Sen. Susan Collins is now framing the bill as a trade-off to help her support repealing the law's individual mandate, and Democrats can't go for that deal.
  • Many Republicans never supported Alexander-Murray. The Wall Street Journal reports that it won't be attached to the two-week spending bill Congress takes up this week, and that House Speaker Paul Ryan was never part of any agreement to pass the bill to help get Collins on board with Republicans' tax overhaul.

Independent experts are also souring on the proposal. "I don't think it's good policy," said Duke researcher David Anderson. He's been beating this drum for a while, and more analysts are starting to agree with him. Here's the argument:

  • President Trump's decision to cut off the ACA's cost-sharing payments ended up artificially inflating the ACA's premium subsidies, to an extent many experts simply hadn't anticipated. For many people who get those subsidies, insurance is more affordable now than ever before.
  • Undoing Trump's actions through Alexander-Murray would also undo that subsidy bump. And experts increasingly think that's not worth it.
  • "The current setup is weird, and I think that kind of offends some people's sensibilities. But it's working, so I don't think there's a compelling need for Alexander-Murray right now," the Kaiser Family Foundation's Larry Levitt said.

The bottom line: Everyone agrees that repealing the individual mandate will lead to higher premiums and probably less competition among insurers. No one is quite sure how bad those effects will be, which makes it hard to say for sure how much Alexander-Murray would help or hurt. But given the choice, experts say they'd rather try to figure out a post-mandate world without Alexander-Murray than with it.

Go deeper

The dark new reality in Congress

National Guard troops keep watch at security fencing. Photo: Kent Nishimura/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

This is how bad things are for elected officials and others working in a post-insurrection Congress:

  • Rep. Norma Torres (D-Calif.) said she had a panic attack while grocery shopping back home.
  • Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.) said police may also have to be at his constituent meetings.
  • Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) told a podcaster he brought a gun to his office on Capitol Hill on Jan. 6 because he anticipated trouble with the proceedings that day.
Off the Rails

Episode 3: Descent into madness

Photo illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photos: Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Beginning on election night 2020 and continuing through his final days in office, Donald Trump unraveled and dragged America with him, to the point that his followers sacked the U.S. Capitol with two weeks left in his term. This Axios series takes you inside the collapse of a president.

Episode 3: The conspiracy goes too far. Trump's outside lawyers plot to seize voting machines and spin theories about communists, spies and computer software.

President Trump was sitting in the Oval Office one day in late November when a call came in from lawyer Sidney Powell. "Ugh, Sidney," he told the staff in the room before he picked up. "She's getting a little crazy, isn't she? She's really gotta tone it down. No one believes this stuff. It's just too much."

Convicts turn to D.C. fixers for Trump pardons

Trump confidante Matt Schlapp interviews Jared Kushner last February. Schlapp is seeking a pardon for a biotech executive. Photo: Samuel Corum/Getty Images

A flood of convicted criminals has retained lobbyists since November’s presidential election to press President Trump for pardons or commutations before he leaves office.

What we're hearing: Among them is Nickie Lum Davis, a Hawaii woman who pleaded guilty last year to abetting an illicit foreign lobbying campaign on behalf of fugitive Malaysian businessman Jho Low. Trump confidante Matt Schlapp also is seeking a pardon for a former biopharmaceutical executive convicted of fraud less than two months ago.

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