The Alexander-Murray health-care bill is a rare bipartisan effort on a topic that has generated white-hot political controversy. If Donald Trump wants to show some leadership, this is his chance.
The bill isn't perfect. It isn't the final fix for Obamacare. But it deserves support for what it is: a needed quick fix and an opening to further bipartisan reform later.
The approach offers enormous advantages over the current roller-coaster ride of instability as politicians fight over the fate of Obamacare.
The bill will stabilize the health-care marketplace, which was plunged into uncertainty Oct. 12 when Donald Trump said his administration would stop paying billions in health-insurance subsidies for low-income households.
These subsidies cover costs to insurance companies of providing mandated discounted rates to low-income Americans. Because insurance companies are required to offer the discounts, these companies will have to cover the cost without subsidies — then pass on their costs as higher premiums for other clients.
The Congressional Budget Office estimated that premiums would increase 20 percent by 2018. It is people in the middle class who will get hit with increased costs.
The legality of the administration paying the subsidies has been in dispute. The bill introduced by Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander and Democratic Sen. Patty Murray would resolve that by authorizing them through Congress.
It would allow states more flexibility, while preserving protections for patients with pre-existing conditions.
The bill restores peace of mind to Americans who get their coverage through Obamacare. It provides short-term stability to the health insurance industry.
It will also buy time for lawmakers to find a more permanent solution.
If Trump's goal in rescinding the subsidies was to force congressional action, he could have taken a celebratory bow and encouraged Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to schedule a vote on this bipartisan quick fix — something McConnell said he will do as soon as the president gives his blessing.
Trump's task now is to be part of the fix — because even without Trump's recent efforts to sabotage Obamacare, the system had major flaws that demand attention.
But if Trump sinks this bill and contributes to the further disintegration of Obamacare, he will own the disaster that will touch many of his core supporters as they lose coverage or watch premiums skyrocket.
In the eyes of the American people, Republicans in Congress also will own the disaster.
Their task now is to salvage and stabilize Obamacare for the time being. Conservatives may need to hold their noses, but this has to be done.
Health care is too big and too important to be purely partisan. The lack of GOP support was a genetic flaw in Obamacare. Republicans should not repeat that mistake.
The Alexander-Murray bill is bipartisan. It provides space and time for a more comprehensive — and bipartisan — look at permanent reforms to Obamacare later.