WASHINGTON – Sen. Bill Nelson is a definite no on the Senate's tax plan, but the Florida Democrat could play a role in its passage anyway.
Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine has been a hold-out on the legislation but was more optimistic following a meeting Tuesday with President Donald Trump on Capitol Hill.
In part that's because Trump said he'd support a bill Collins and Nelson teamed up on to fund a reinsurance program for high-risk health insurance enrollees.
Collins said that would protect people with pre-existing conditions and lower premiums that could come if the tax plan does away with Obamacare's individual mandate.
The Collins-Nelson proposal calls for more than $2 billion a year in federal "seed money" for state-run high-risk pools.
"In the case of the insurance company that has a catastrophic loss, you create a reinsurance find," Nelson said earlier this year when the concept surfaced. "You insure the insurance company against the catastrophe. Same thing we did in Florida on hurricanes."
Collins said Trump was agreeable to a plan that called for passing that legislation and signing it into law before the House and Senate finish up a conference bill on taxes.
She also wants to see the so-called Alexander-Murray legislation passed, which continues payments to insurers.
It's far from certain that other Republicans would be on board with the health care provisions, but for now they are helping move a key senator on the sweeping tax bill. The GOP can afford to lose only two members with all Democrats opposed.
"I think they're eager to help me get to yes," Collins told reporters.