Senate's ACA talks aren't going as well as they seem

HELP's top Democrat and Republican, Patty Murray and Lamar Alexander, at a hearing. Photo: Alex Brandon/AP

Republicans and Democrats on the Senate HELP Committee disagree about the how far they should go in overhauling the Affordable Care Act's "state innovation waivers" — a dispute that could spell trouble for the committee's bipartisan talks about how to shore up the ACA.

The committee's public hearings have focused mainly on non-controversial changes to the waiver process. But private negotiations, HELP Chairman Lamar Alexander has talked more explicitly about making more substantial changes, a senior GOP aide said. Alexander wants to make it easier for states to waive some of the ACA's consumer protections and benefit mandates — which Democrats would staunchly oppose.