×

UPDATE 1-U.S. senators reach bipartisan deal on short-term Obamacare fix

(Recasts, adds Trump comments)

WASHINGTON, Oct 17 (Reuters) - Two U.S. senators on Tuesday announced a bipartisan breakthrough to shore up Obamacare, an agreement that would revive federal subsidies for health insurers, and President Donald Trump voiced support for the deal.

The agreement worked out by Republican Senator Lamar Alexander and Democratic Senator Patty Murray would meet some Democratic objectives, including a revival of the subsidies for Obamacare and restoring $106 million in funding for a federal program that helps people enroll in insurance plans.

In exchange, Republicans would get more flexibility for states to offer a wider variety of health insurance plans while maintaining the requirement that sick and healthy people be charged the same rates for coverage.

The Trump administration announced last week it would stop paying billions of dollars to insurers to help low-income Americans pay out-of-pocket medical expenses, part of the Republican president's effort to dismantle Obamacare, Democratic former President Barack Obamas signature healthcare law.

Trump, who campaigned for president last year on a pledge to repeal Obamacare, has repeatedly criticized the 2010 law, the Affordable Care Act.

But, speaking to reporters at the White House on Tuesday, Trump suggested he could get behind the plan for a short-term fix that Alexander and Murray had settled on.

He said it would help get Obamacare through a "very dangerous little period." But he also said he was still committed to a broader overhaul of the program.

"The solution will be for about a year or two years," Trump said at a joint news conference with Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras.

Shares of U.S. hospital operators, including Tenet Healthcare Corp and HCA Healthcare Inc, moved higher after news of the deal. Tenet shares were last up 4 percent, while HCA was 2.3 percent higher. Shares of some U.S. health insurers also extended their gains on the day, with Anthem Inc last up 2.5 percent and Centene Corp rising 2.8 percent. (Reporting by Yasmeen Abutaleb, Richard Cowan and Lewis Krauskopf; Writing by Yasmeen Abutaleb and Caren Bohan; Editing by Paul Simao and Jonathan Oatis)