Top GOP senators call for more low-income help in healthcare bill

Top GOP senators call for more low-income help in healthcare bill

Some top Senate Republicans are backing a change to the House ObamaCare replacement bill to increase financial assistance for low-income people to purchase health insurance.

Sen. John ThuneJohn ThuneOvernight Tech: FCC won't fine Colbert over Trump joke | Trump budget slashes science funding | Net neutrality comment period opens Transportation Department faces cuts under Trump budget Senate GOP focused on killing Medicaid expansion MORE (R-S.D.), a member of Senate GOP leadership, said Tuesday he is working on an amendment to increase the tax credits under the bill for low-income people. Sen. Lamar AlexanderLamar AlexanderRepublicans give Trump's budget the cold shoulder Senate GOP short on ideas for stabilizing ObamaCare markets GOP senators push Trump for DOE research funding MORE (R-Tenn.), chairman of the Senate Health Committee, and Sen. Roy BluntRoy BluntSenators unveil infrastructure investment bill GOP nears total exasperation with Trump GOP senators pitch Merrick Garland for FBI director MORE (R-Mo.), another Senate leader, said they support the idea as well.

The change would be significant — the House legislation, known as the American Health Care Act, currently bases its tax credits on age, meaning lower-income people do not get extra help, unlike under ObamaCare.

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“I do think there are things we can do to tailor the tax credit in a way that it makes more attractive to people and more helpful to people on the lower end and with a phaseout that is a little less steep than what the House has,” Thune told reporters Tuesday.

He added that he is working on an amendment to that end.

“It would be nice to add it to the House bill but if necessary, it could be in the Senate,” he said.

It is unclear how much the tax credits would be increased by.

While Thune has supported more help for low-income people in the past, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) report on the GOP plan released Monday may be upping the pressure to provide more assistance: The report found that older people with low incomes would be particularly hard-hit by the bill. 

In an extreme example, the premium for a 64-year-old making $26,500, after factoring in financial assistance, would rise from $1,700 to $14,600 under the GOP plan.

Alexander praised Thune’s proposed amendment and also called for increasing funding for the 10-year, $100 billion “stabilization fund” in the House bill that can help people afford premiums.

“I think there's some things we can do to improve it, including enlarging the stabilization fund for people with complex problems,” Alexander said. “Sen. Thune's working on amendment that would make the tax credit richer for lower-income people. I think both those things would be helpful.”

Blunt pointed to help for “older, lower-income people” in particular.

“We need to look at some things like people who are going to be least well-served in a new marketplace, is there a way to shift some of the opportunity of assistance toward them," he said.

The talk comes as a range of senators are calling for slowing down and making changes to the House bill, which is increasingly coming under fire.

But it is unclear how conservatives would feel about increasing the tax credits, which have already been a source of deep concern for them.