U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell unveiled a revised Republican health care bill Thursday that includes a controversial amendment that would allow insurers to sell more limited plans that do not cover certain “essential” health benefits as currently required.
Critics of the amendment from Senator Ted Cruz, a Texas Republican, contend the more basic plans would be less costly for healthier people who need less care, a development that would increase rates for sicker and older people who buy more comprehensive coverage in the individual marketplace.
The amendment is aimed at garnering more Republican support to begin debate on the bill next week, but allowing insurers to sell less comprehensive plans threatens to weaken support among moderates and some conservatives. McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, last month withdrew an earlier plan after it became clear there was not enough support for it in the Republican-led Senate.
Senate leaders are maintaining the option of changing or abandoning the amendment after the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) releases an analysis next week.
The CBO will provide two versions of the analysis, one without the Cruz provisions and another that includes details on the amendment. A CBO assessment of the previous Senate bill concluded the number of uninsured Americans would rise by 22 million over the next decade compared with the current law, the Affordable Care Act. It’s commonly known as Obamacare, named for former President Barack Obama.
The latest Republican bill also maintains taxes for the wealthy that are included in Obamacare and more financial assistance for insurance for low-income people and includes billions of dollars to combat the nation’s opioid epidemic.
Trump has been vocal this week in pushing Senate Republicans to finish work on a health care bill before leaving for their annual August vacation.
His latest comments came Wednesday in an interview with the Christian Broadcasting Network. He said he would be “very angry” if a health care bill did not pass.
McConnell has postponed the scheduled August recess by two weeks in order to give lawmakers more time.
The Republican Party has a 52-48 majority in the Senate, and with no Democrats voicing support for the effort to revamp the health care system they passed under Obama, it would take only a few Republican opponents to stop the measure from passing.
McConnell’s latest effort to dismantle Obamacare suffered a setback Thursday when Republican Senators Bill Cassidy of Louisiana and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina unveiled their health care proposal on CNN only minutes before McConnell was preparing to brief Republican colleagues on his measure in a closed-door setting.
Cassidy and Graham said their bill would shift billions of federal dollars currently allocated to Obamacare to the state level.
The main Republican criticisms of Obamacare are that it is too costly and unfairly requires people to purchase health insurance or else face a penalty.
Some senators want to eliminate as much as possible of Obama’s signature law, while others are looking to preserve popular parts of it, including insurance funding for poorer Americans.
The House of Representatives narrowly approved a health care overhaul in May. Trump initially cheered the passage of that bill at a White House rally, but since has called it “mean” and lobbied the Senate to approve an overhaul with “heart.”
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