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Source: Senate leaders to offer $200 billion to win over moderates

Source: Senate leaders to offer $200 billion to win over moderates
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In a bold move to revive their healthcare bill, Senate Republican leaders are getting ready to propose giving $200 billion in assistance to states that expanded Medicaid, according to a person familiar with internal Senate negotiations.

The huge sum would be funded by leaving in place ObamaCare’s net investment income tax and its Medicare surtax on wealthy earners, according to the source briefed on the proposal.

The figure is likely to outrage conservatives, who would prefer to use the savings from the Senate healthcare bill to pay down the deficit.

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The source said the aid would be targeted primarily at Medicaid expansion states, adding it would be distributed on “the back end” of the bill’s timeline, when the legislation would phase out the generous federal contribution for expanded Medicaid enrollment — a central pillar of ObamaCare.

The goal is winning the support of wavering moderate Republicans who will make or break the legislation: Sens. Rob PortmanRobert (Rob) Jones PortmanCommittee chairman aims for House vote on opioid bills by Memorial Day Flake to try to force vote on DACA stopgap plan Congress punts fight over Dreamers to March MORE (R-Ohio), Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiThe siren of Baton Rouge Interior plan to use drilling funds for new projects met with skepticism The 14 GOP senators who voted against Trump’s immigration framework MORE (R-Alaska), Shelley Moore CapitoShelley Wellons Moore CapitoAt least Alzheimer’s research is bringing Washington together Overnight Tech: Intel chief says 'no doubt' Russia will meddle in midterms | Dems press FCC over net neutrality comments | Bill aims to bridge rural-urban digital divide | FCC to review rules on children's TV Senators offer bill to close rural-urban internet divide MORE (R-W.Va.) and Dean HellerDean Arthur HellerThe siren of Baton Rouge Big Republican missteps needed for Democrats to win in November What to watch for in the Senate immigration votes MORE (R-Nev.). 

A spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellLawmakers feel pressure on guns Bipartisan group of House lawmakers urge action on Export-Import Bank nominees Curbelo Dem rival lashes out over immigration failure MORE (R-Ky.) declined to confirm or deny the pending offer, as has been the leader’s practice of not commenting on negotiations.

President Trump promised senators at a White House meeting Wednesday that he is prepared to spend tens of billions of dollars more to address their concerns but spoke in only general terms.

“The president said today we’re prepared to put money at things,” said a senator from a Medicaid-expansion state who attended the lunch.

The $200 billion proposal, however, was not discussed at a meeting hosted Wednesday evening by Sen. John BarrassoJohn Anthony BarrassoThe 14 GOP senators who voted against Trump’s immigration framework Overnight Energy: Senate panel advances Trump pick for EPA No. 2 | Pruitt questions ‘assumptions’ on climate | Dems want Pruitt recused from climate rule review Senate panel advances Trump pick for No. 2 official at EPA MORE (Wyo.), the Republican Policy Committee chairman, according to a lawmaker who participated. 

The windfall for Medicaid expansion states would come on top of a proposal that Seema Verma, the administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, made to moderate GOP senators at a lunch meeting at the White House on Wednesday.

Verma told nervous senators from Medicaid expansion states that the administration would be willing to give states flexibility to use Medicaid funds to subsidize the healthcare costs of people not enrolled in the entitlement program.

The so-called Medicaid wraparound would give states a way to help low-income people who don’t qualify for traditional Medicaid if they end expanded enrollment because of a reduction in federal funding.

The wraparound would allow states to draw from Medicaid to subsidize the costs of low-income people with high premiums and deductibles. 

That money would come in addition to $132 billion the revised bill already sets aside for a long-term state innovation fund and $45 billion to treat opioid addiction.

Low-income people could also use refundable tax credits to pay for insurance premiums under the revised Senate proposal.

But moderates were not initially sold on Verma’s Medicaid proposal, in part because it raises the question of whether it would stretch the program too thin since the bill also includes hundreds of billions in cuts. 

“I think it’s best to sum it up as: it’s complicated. It will have differing impacts depending on where each state is respectively,” Murkowski said after Wednesday’s meeting.

Plowing an extra $200 billion in federal assistance to Medicaid expansion states could shore up any funding shortfall in case traditional Medicaid funding, the long-term innovation fund and the tax credits prove inadequate.