Ed Sealover, Denver Business Journal

Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, in conjunction with Ohio Gov. John Kasich, today outlined a series of proposed incremental reforms to the federal Affordable Care Act that they have presented to Congress.

Hickenlooper, a Democrat, and Kasich, a Republican, believe their proposals will encourage more young and healthy people to buy individual health-insurance policies and, in doing so, will slow the rapidly rising costs of that type of insurance.

The long-awaited plan was described in a joint letter from Hickenlooper and Kasich to congressional leaders dated Wednesday. ( Full text here.) The governors will formally present the plan on Sept. 7 at a hearing of the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions on ways to shore up health insurance markets.

It’s a mish-mash of Republican and Democratic ideas. For example, it supports tax breaks to insurers as an incentive to offer more plans in rural areas, as well as process by which states could seek waivers from requiring insurers to offer all of the essential health benefits they are now required to cover.

It also seeks to continue federal cost-sharing reduction payments to insurers, and to create a $15 billion reinsurance fund to help insurers cover the cost of providing policies to the sickest individuals.

The proposal was developed through months of conversation with the Kasich. The governors of Alaska, Louisiana, Montana, Nevada, Pennsylvania and Virginia — one Republican, one independent and four Democrats — are also backing the plan.

It was developed in the wake of congressional Republicans’ failed attempts to repeal the Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare, which have left the insurance markets riled.

“Continuing uncertainty about the direction of federal policy is driving up premiums, eliminating competition and leaving consumers with fewer choices,” Hickenlooper and Kasich said in their joint letter to congressional leaders. “We ask you to take immediate steps to make coverage more stable and affordable.”

In a news conference today at the Colorado Capitol, Hickenlooper acknowledged that the plan, which is focused solely on the individual insurance market, is not a seismic proposal. It doesn’t touch on Medicaid reform, doesn’t broach the controversial subject of single-payer health care and doesn’t offer an estimate for how many of the 27 million uninsured Americans would become insured if fully implemented.

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