McConnell faces hunt for GOP votes for Senate health bill

While the ACA was passed without Republican support in either the House or Senate, Obama emphasized that many ordinary Republicans had reasons to support the measure: "intensely personal ones" that included a sick relative or concerns about massive medical bills.

"My hope is that the four of us who have announced our opposition will be invited to sit down with the people who wrote the bill, [Senate] leadership, and say, 'What will it take to get you guys behind the bill?'" Paul said.

"But right now, after eight years, the legislation rushed through the House and the Senate without public hearings or debate would do the opposite", Obama said.

"Over ten years the Senate bill actually reduces federal expenditures for Medicaid more than the House bill did", Custer said. So it isn't any one factor. During a private meeting with Senate Republicans earlier this month, Trump called the Senate proposal "mean", according to sources in the room, urging senators to pour more money into the proposal. The Senate bill would phase out the expansion of Medicaid, but more slowly than the House, ending it by 2024.

"The devil is in the details, and now that we've seen the bill, it's understandable why Senate leaders have kept it hidden behind closed doors", says Betsy Imholz, special projects director for Consumers Union, the policy and mobilization arm of Consumer Reports.

Like the House bill, the Senate's option would drastically cut Medicaid, whose users are two-thirds female, ending coverage for some 11 million users.

Yesterday 43 protesters were arrested at the office of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

A vote on the bill could come next week.

The bill would let states get waivers to ignore some coverage requirements under Obama's law, such as specific health services insurers must now cover.

If no Democrats vote in favor of the bill, McConnell can only afford to lose two votes out of the 52 Republicans in the Senate. Under Obamacare, tax credits are primarily based on income, age and geography, benefitting lower- and moderate-income people who purchase insurance on the exchanges.

The measure represents the Senate GOP's effort to achieve a top-tier priority for President Donald Trump and virtually all Republican members of Congress.

Conservative Republican Senator Rand Paul, who wants a full repeal of Obamacare, said he feared that with the legislation being developed, "we're actually going to be replacing Obamacare with Obamacare", referring to the continuing role of government. But in a departure from the House's bill, states can't opt of regulations that now prevent insurers from charging people with pre-existing conditions more for their medical coverage.

  • Carolyn Briggs