Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, center, talks with Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., far left, and Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., after they attended a meeting on immigration with other senators Wednesday, Jan. 24, 2018 on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump assured two Senate Republicans in a weekend conference call that he wants tens of billions of dollars to lower health-care premiums included in a must-pass spending bill.

Trump made the commitment related to payments to insurers under the Affordable Care Act in an hour-long Saturday call with Sens. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., and Susan Collins, R-Maine, according to three people briefed on the conversation.

Trump then called top GOP leaders in the House and Senate to reiterate his support for the deal, the people said. They spoke on the condition of anonymity to detail the private conversation.

However it remained uncertain Monday whether the health-care language would end up in the massive $1 trillion-plus spending bill that must pass by Friday at midnight to stave off a government shutdown. The legislation was expected to be released Monday night, but several issues, including the health-care language, were still being debated between the parties.

Democrats were resisting the health measures, because Republicans were seeking to include language limiting federal funding for abortions.

The health-care deal would represent a fulfillment of commitments that Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., had previously made to Collins. Collins cited these commitments when she voted in favor of the new tax law last year. She and Alexander have been working for months to push legislation aimed at lowering premiums for people buying health-care coverage on the individual market under the Affordable Care Act.

The deal discussed in the Saturday call, which also included Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, would provide $30 billion over three years in reinsurance money to cushion insurance payments for people with high health claims. It would also restart the so-called cost sharing reduction payments made to insurers under the Affordable Care Act, which Trump ended in the fall. The cost-sharing reduction payments would be made retroactively, and would continue for three years.


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