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Senate Republicans talk about how to stabilize ACA markets

Steve Helber / AP

The Senate GOP health care working group talked today about how to make sure the Affordable Care Act marketplaces don't melt down before next year. That could mean a short-term stabilization bill, but senators said they'd prefer to do it as part of a bigger ACA replacement bill if possible.

The bottom line: "I think the primary focus of discussion right now is the fact that these markets are collapsing," said Sen. Ron Johnson. "So we're trying to grapple with what can we do short-term to stabilize these markets, to prevent them from collapsing." Sen. Thom Tillis said all Senate Republicans discussed the possible need for "relief" at a later lunch, where Sen. Joni Ernst talked about the threat that the last major insurer might pull out of Iowa.

Short-term bill vs. long-term bill: Sen. Rob Portman said there was "no decision made on that, but there is a need to make sure that whatever we do immediately helps to ensure that the insurance market doesn't collapse."

But Sen. Pat Roberts suggested there could be a first step to "shore up those who wouldn't have any insurance" before they pass the rest of the health care bill. Senate HELP Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander said he brought up his proposal to give more options to people who won't have any ACA insurers in 2018 and 2019.

Insurer payments: No decision on whether to fund the ACA cost-sharing subsidies either — but Johnson said he's open to "doing what we need to do in the short-term, even though they may be policies I don't support."