Centrist Republicans push back on GOP healthcare bill 

Senate Republicans from states that expanded Medicaid enrollment under ObamaCare are pushing back on pressure from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellOn The Money: Biden, Pelosi struggle with end of eviction ban | Trump attorney says he will fight release of tax returns Graham's COVID-19 'breakthrough' case jolts Senate McConnell warns Democrats against 'artificial timeline' for infrastructure deal MORE (R-Ky.) to support the conference’s new healthcare bill.

The centrists want GOP leaders to agree to changes to the bill before they will back their party on a key procedural vote as early as next week.

They specifically want a formula for indexing Medicaid to inflation to be changed so that it is more generous to states getting federal support.

ADVERTISEMENT

They also want assurances from McConnell on how an additional $70 billion in money to help lower-income people purchase insurance will be spent.

And they are asking McConnell to put tens of billions of dollars more on the table.

Centrist Republicans pressed their demands during a Thursday meeting in McConnell’s office after the new Senate GOP bill was made public.

Republican Sens. Dean HellerDean Arthur HellerDemocrat Jacky Rosen becomes 22nd senator to back bipartisan infrastructure deal 9 Senate seats most likely to flip in 2022 On The Trail: Democrats plan to hammer Trump on Social Security, Medicare MORE (Nev.), Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiGraham's COVID-19 'breakthrough' case jolts Senate Sarah Palin says she's praying about running for Senate against Murkowski Graham says he has COVID-19 'breakthrough' infection MORE (Alaska), Rob PortmanRobert (Rob) Jones PortmanGraham's COVID-19 'breakthrough' case jolts Senate Key Senate Republican praises infrastructure deal Infrastructure deal would require study on job losses from Keystone's end MORE (Ohio), Shelley Moore CapitoShelley Wellons Moore CapitoGraham's COVID-19 'breakthrough' case jolts Senate Key Senate Republican praises infrastructure deal Biden to return to pre-Obama water protections in first step for clean water regulations MORE (W.Va.) and John HoevenJohn Henry HoevenThe Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - US gymnast wins all-around gold as Simone Biles cheers from the stands The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - A huge win for Biden, centrist senators Senate votes to take up infrastructure deal MORE (N.D.) all attended the meeting.

McConnell is betting that the moderates will come to his side before next week’s vote after he made several concessions to them in the new bill.

The GOP leader can’t afford to lose support from any of them.

Two Republicans, Sens. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulFive things to watch in two Ohio special election primaries Up next in the culture wars: Adding women to the draft The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - A huge win for Biden, centrist senators MORE (Ky.) and Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsGraham's COVID-19 'breakthrough' case jolts Senate The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Senate finalizes .2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill Schumer: Democrats 'on track' to pass bipartisan deal, .5T budget MORE (Maine), say they will vote against the procedural motion to begin debate on the bill.

McConnell needs 50 votes, with every Democrat in the Senate prepared to vote no. Vice President Pence would then cast the tie-breaking vote.

He won over Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzUp next in the culture wars: Adding women to the draft Biden's bipartisan deal faces Senate gauntlet 228 Republican lawmakers urge Supreme Court to overrule Roe v. Wade MORE (R-Texas) by including language giving insurance companies more flexibility in what kind of plans they sell, but the concessions risks support from centrists worried that this will lead premiums to rise on sick people and those with pre-existing conditions.

Emerging from McConnell’s office, Hoeven said he is not sure whether the bill has enough money for states. A long-term “innovation” fund designed to help states ensure people can buy insurance has been raised to $132 million.

“We need to see what amount we’d have now with the increase in the long-term fund and then we can determine from there what we need,” he said.

Asked if the $70 billion in additional funding was enough to ease his concerns, Hoeven said, “This is why we need to see the numbers.”

“I’m reserving judgment at this point. I want to see the [Congressional Budget Office] score,” he said.

Moderates have doubts about their leadership’s promises that the innovation fund will be enough to help people likely to lose health coverage after the generous federal subsidy for Medicaid expansion phases out by the end of 2024.

Collins told reporters that leaders appeared to be double- and triple-counting to address various concerns raised by colleagues.

“It seems to me you’re using that money over and over again,” she said, according to Talking Points Memo. “It’s supposed to relieve the cost of high premiums. It’s supposed to solve the problem with deductibles being unaffordable. It’s supposed to be available for high-risk or reinsurance pool. It’s supposed to be available under the Cruz Amendment to help prevent a huge increase in rates for people with pre-existing conditions.”

A GOP aide said other moderates share her concerns.

McConnell has told these centrists that healthcare costs for lower-income Americans will be covered by three pots of money: the funds set aside for tax credits and refundable tax credits, the $132 billion long-term state innovation fund and $45 billion to treat opioid addiction.

“That’s what we talked about,” said Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) of conversations with the leadership.

Cassidy is one of 20 Republican senators from states that expanded Medicaid enrollment under ObamaCare.

He said leaders pledged the stabilization fund would also be enough to cover the higher costs of patients with pre-existing medical conditions.

“States could use the stabilization fund to address the issues of pre-existing conditions that President Trump said he was going to address,” he said.

But while $132 billion may sound like a lot for moderates, several senators who said they remain undecided on how to vote next week worry it might not be enough.

Along with Cassidy, Hoeven, Portman, Capito and Heller said they were undecided on the procedural motion.

Their votes may depend on the analysis from the Congressional Budget Office, which dealt a blow to the Senate legislation last month when it projected that 22 million people would be without health insurance in 2026 because of it.

While the moderates are McConnell’s immediate concern, he has not completely protected his right flank.

Sen. Mike LeeMichael (Mike) Shumway LeeThis week: Senate starts infrastructure sprint Senators introduce bipartisan infrastructure bill in rare Sunday session Biden's bipartisan deal faces Senate gauntlet MORE (R-Utah), who joined Cruz in recent weeks in demanding insurance regulatory reform, says he remains undecided on the vote to proceed to the bill.

Lee was left out of the deal that Cruz negotiated to allow insurance companies more flexibility to sell plans.

Cruz conceded some ground to colleagues who worried the Cruz–Lee amendment would segment the insurance market and cause the premiums of older, sicker people who buy plans that meet ObamaCare’s regulatory requirements to skyrocket.

He agreed to modify the language by tying the lower-cost risk pools of younger, healthier people who buy cheaper bare-bones plans to the higher-cost risk pools of people who purchase more expensive plans that meet federal requirements.

This is believed to rein in the costs for people with pre-existing conditions.

Leaders have also told moderates that the $132 billion innovation fund can be used to subsidize the cost of high-risk pools as well, but moderates are concerned this will leave less money to cover those likely to lose insurance coverage because Medicaid spending reductions.