President Donald Trump on Tuesday appeared to signal his support for a tentative deal in Congress to stabilize insurance markets by extending cost-sharing reimbursements for two years – just days after Trump announced that the subsidies, known as CSRs, would be eliminated.
"It is a short-term solution, so that we don't have this very dangerous little period – including dangerous periods for insurance companies," Trump said. "For a period of one year, two years, we will have a very good solution."
Trump made the comments during a Rose Garden press conference with Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras of Greece, just moments after news broke on Capitol Hill that Sens. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., and Patty Murray, D-Wash., had arrived at a tentative agreement to extend the CSRs in exchange for providing states more latitude to make changes to certain types of insurance plans.
The president emphasized that he was aware of what Alexander and Murray were working on, telling reporters, "I know very much what they're doing."
Trump added: "Lamar has been working very, very hard with the Democratic – his colleagues on the other side, and Patty Murray is one of them, in particular. And they're coming up and they're fairly close to a short-term solution."
The White House then appeared to walk back the president's apparent endorsement.
"We are willing to work with Congress to reach a legislative solution," an administration official told NBC News. "We will not provide bailouts to insurance companies until we provide the American people with relief from the Obamacare disaster."
It was unclear late Tuesday whether the White House will ultimately get on board with what has become known as the Alexander-Murray plan.
Top Senate Republicans, likewise, appeared to hedge their bets. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., was asked if there was a plan in place yet to move the deal through the Senate. "We haven't had a chance to think about the way forward yet," he told reporters.
Nonetheless, Alexander made a point on Tuesday of thanking the president for repeatedly "encouraging" him to work on the deal with Murray.
"I'm grateful to the president for encouraging me on two occasions and phone calls to try and get a bipartisan agreement with Senator Murray," Alexander told reporters on Capitol Hill. "He said he didn't want people to be hurt during these next two years, while we're arguing about the long-term direction of health care in the country."
Trump announced the end of the CSRs on Thursday, after months of threatening to end them. The announcement followed a determination by Attorney General Jeff Sessions that the payments were illegal. According to Sessions, the CSRs, which reimburse insurance companies for discounts they are required by law to provide to low income Obamacare customers, need explicit congressional appropriation, which they did not have at the time.
The Alexander Murray deal could offer a temporary solution, authorized by Congress, to fund the CSRs.