GOP Senate health care bill released

Pauline Gross
June 22, 2017

Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is hoping to push the measure through the Senate next week.

U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, told the Press Herald last week that she was concerned about the impact of changing the Medicaid funding formula on Maine, saying doing so would have "enormous implications".

Lobbyists and congressional aides say the Senate bill would cut Medicaid, end penalties for people not buying insurance and rescind tax increases that Obama imposed to help pay for his law's expansion of coverage.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell developed the bill behind closed doors. The package represents McConnell's attempt to quell criticism by party moderates and conservatives and win the support he needs in a vote he hopes to stage next week.

For a year, the legislation would eliminate federal funding to Planned Parenthood, which provides critical care, including breast cancer screenings and birth control, to millions of women across the United States, especially to young and low-income individuals.

However, the Senate bill also varies from the House bill and addresses problem issues that generated opposition to that measure. While the House legislation pegged federal insurance subsidies to age, the Senate bill would link them to income as the Affordable Care Act does. Well the GOP Senate has only the slightest of room to pass this bill as it will take only three Republican senators to vote against it to kill this version.

"I don't think there is right now", Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin G. Hatch, R-Utah, said when asked whether the legislation includes a distinct opioid fund.

Tennessee Senator Lamar Alexander said, "To begin with, the draft Senate health care bill makes no change in the law protecting people with pre-existing conditions, no change in Medicare benefits, and increases Medicaid funding- that's TennCare-at the rate of inflation". (This is known as the "community rating".) Here the Senate is breaking with the House health care bill, which allows states to remove those protections and give insurers more pricing flexibility if they choose.

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House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi assails the GOP bill as a tax break for wealthy Americans.

"It's going to be important to get the president's support to get us across the finish line", No. 2 Senate GOP leader John Cornyn of Texas said Wednesday of White House officials. In that sense, it looks like the House bill, which the CBO said would cut Medicaid by $834 billion over a decade (relative to current law), with a loss of 14 million beneficiaries.

But some Republicans remained skeptical.

"Simply put, this bill will result in higher costs, less care, and millions of Americans will lose their health insurance, particularly through Medicaid".

The House's bill had a rocky road to passage, with Speaker Paul Ryan pulling an earlier version before it could reach the floor. Chris Coons, D-Del., Sen.

Senate Republicans released their long-awaited bill Thursday to dismantle much of Barack Obama's health care law, proposing to cut Medicaid and erase tax boosts that helped Obama finance his expansion of coverage.

It would also limit, beginning in 2020, the federal funds that states get each year for Medicaid.

The Senate would end the tax penalties Obama's law created for people not buying insurance and larger employers not offering coverage to workers. The so-called individual mandate - aimed at keeping insurance markets solvent by prompting younger, healthier people to buy policies - has always been one of the GOP's favorite targets. Democrats complain that it cuts taxes for businesses while leaving too many others in need.

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