Senate GOP releases bill to cut Medicaid, alter 'Obamacare'

It reads in part, "The draft bill unveiled in the Senate today strikes me as an important and constructive first step in repealing Obamacare and replacing it with a better, stable, consumer-driven health care system for all Pennsylvanians".

But the 142-page draft would allow states to drop several benefits mandated under current law, such as maternity care and hospital services, and also abolishes the requirement for most Americans to have health insurance.

President Donald Trump gave his reaction to the release of the Senate Republican healthcare bill during a meeting Thursday with two-dozen CEOs and leaders from the tech industry. But Trump says that Republicans would love to have Democratic support.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and his lieutenants worked in secret for weeks on the bill, and he said debate on it would start next week.

While the Congressional Budget Office hasn't yet scored the Senate bill, it estimated the House GOP's ObamaCare repeal would result in 23 million more people being uninsured.

But just as Democrats and the public at large were excluded from the Senate GOP's process of crafting the bill, these patients' voices were not welcome.

And they would bar people from using tax credits to buy policies that pay for abortion, and also block Planned Parenthood from getting any money from Medicaid for a year. Trump has been threatening to discontinue those payments, and some insurance companies have cited uncertainty over those funds as reasons why they are abandoning some markets and boosting premiums.

But a draft copy of the legislation obtained by the Washington Post that was circulating Capitol Hill on Wednesday included showed that while the Senate version would phase out Medicaid expansion at a more gradual rate than the House version, it would cut funding deeper in the future. The budget office's analysis of the Senate measure is expected in the next few days. Senate Republicans don't intend to hold an committee hearings on the bill, despite their commitment to so-called "regular order".

But if the bill doesn't do enough to control health care costs and roll back enough of Obamacare, Republicans will lose the support of some of the more conservative Republicans.

The ACA's contentious individual mandate would be eliminated under the GOP bill, ending the tax penalty levied on those who don't buy insurance. Republican senators from states that expanded Medicaid, such as Ohio's Rob Portman, want to extend that phase-out to seven years. It needed to complete work on the health care legislation to see how much money was left for plans for a corporate tax overhaul and a $1 trillion infrastructure program. Healthcare is a top priority for voters and many Republicans fear a legislative misstep could hurt them. And Susan Collins of ME reiterated her opposition to language blocking federal money for Planned Parenthood, which many Republicans oppose because it provides abortions. If three or more Republicans oppose the plan, it dies.

The Senate GOP's bill aimed at wiping away the Affordable Care Act is a reality. It has come under widespread criticism from Democrats and helped prompt some moderate House Republicans to vote against the measure.

  • Salvatore Jensen