GOP senator: Healthcare deal unlikely this year

Sen. Richard BurrRichard Mauze BurrSenate chairman hopes to wrap up Russia investigation this year Lawmakers seek to interview Trump secretary in Russia probe Senate Dem wants closer look at Russia's fake news operation on Facebook MORE (R-N.C.) says he doesn't think Congress is going to reach a deal to repeal and replace ObamaCare.

"It's unlikely that we will get a healthcare deal," Burr said in an interview with a North Carolina news station Thursday. 

"I don't see a comprehensive healthcare plan this year." 

The leading Republican senator also said the House bill was "dead on arrival," adding that it was "not a good plan."

The Senate has been working on a healthcare bill since the House passed its own last month, and Senate Republican Whip John CornynJohn CornynImmigration battlefield widens for Trump, GOP Congressional investigations — not just special counsels — strengthen our democracy Wrath of right falls on Google MORE (Texas) said a bill would pass through the chamber by "the end of July at the latest."

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But there are deep divisions on issues such as how to handle the Medicaid expansion and ObamaCare's insurer regulations, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellMitch McConnellTrump’s isolation grows Ellison: Trump has 'level of sympathy' for neo-Nazis, white supremacists Trump touts endorsement of second-place finisher in Alabama primary MORE (R-Ky.) has lowered expectations.

McConnell last week said he did not know how the Senate would get to 51 votes on healthcare and suggested that moving tax reform legislation could be simpler. 

Conservative and centrist Republican senators have very different views on what the healthcare bill should look like. That is complicating any effort to build a consensus GOP position around a bill against what is expected to be unified Democratic opposition. 

Burr indicated the Senate is looking for ways to stabilize the ObamaCare markets in the short term. 

Some states are in danger of having no insurers on the exchanges next year, and some senators have said they're looking for a way to address that. 

"Most of my time has been spent trying to figure out solutions to Iowa losing all its insurers, to Tennessee potentially losing theirs ... that both aide the exchanges or transition it to something that's life after the Affordable Care Act," he said.   

It's unclear what the Senate is considering, but a bill by Health Committee Chairman Lamar AlexanderAndrew (Lamar) Lamar AlexanderTrump to make ObamaCare payments to insurers for August CBO: ObamaCare premiums could rise 20 percent if Trump ends payments CBO to release report Tuesday on ending ObamaCare insurer payments MORE (R-Tenn.) would allow people who live in states with no insurers on the exchanges to use their subsidies for other health plans. 

They would also be exempt from ObamaCare's individual mandate. 

But insurers are also still waiting to hear from the Trump administration about whether it will continue ObamaCare's cost-sharing reduction payments, which reimburse insurers for giving discounts to low-income customers. 

The Trump administration has made the May payment, but said it hasn't made any decision about future payments. 

Insurers filing rate proposals for 2018 have cited uncertainty around the payments as their reason for double-digit premium increases.

The House approved legislation repealing and replacing ObamaCare in April. Major provisions of that legislation are not expected to survive in the Senate, however, both because of opposition from senators and special budgetary rules being used to move the legislation. Those rules prevent Democrats from filibustering the bill, but also impose restrictions on it.