Healthcare

Week ahead: Senate GOP struggles to find ObamaCare repeal answer

Keren Carrion

Senate Republicans will seek to make progress on their stalled ObamaCare repeal bill in the coming week–this time away from Washington and back in their states for recess.

Lawmakers left town amid a flurry of activity over potential changes to the bill, as leaders look to cobble together the 50 votes needed in the upper chamber for passage, a mark they are significantly short of at the moment.

Likely changes that could be worked on over the recess include increasing the tax credits in the bill to provide more assistance to low-income and older people in affording coverage.

{mosads}Some lawmakers, like Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) have floated not repealing a 3.8 percent tax on high-earners’ investment income as a way to pay for the change.

“We [want to] address the issue of ensuring lower-income citizens are in a position to buy plans that are actually provide them appropriate healthcare,” Corker said. To do that, “my sense is the 3.8 percent repeal will go away.”

Lawmakers are also planning to add $45 billion in funding to fight opioid addiction in an effort to win over lawmakers like Sens. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.).

However, both of those senators have said that the money is not enough to win their votes yet, and they both have broader concerns about the depth of Medicaid cuts in the bill.

On the conservative side, Sens. Mike Lee (R-Utah) and Ted Cruz (R-Texas) are pushing to change the bill to allow insurers to sell plans that don’t meet ObamaCare requirements if they also sell plans that do.

Much of the rest of the conference, though, is worried that sick people would be left as the only ones in the more expensive ObamaCare plans, driving up their costs.

The conservatives met with GOP leaders and the Senate parliamentarian on Thursday in an effort to make progress on some sort of deal to make the change.

Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), the No. 3 Senate Republican, said Cruz’s change “could” be included, but “it has to be structured in a way that ensures that the pools aren’t adversely affected.”

While negotiations, continue, some conservatives, like Sens. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) are getting impatient, and pressing for Republicans to simply pass a repeal bill, then deal with replacement later.

They were backed by President Trump in a tweet Friday.  

“If Republican Senators are unable to pass what they are working on now, they should immediately REPEAL, and then REPLACE at a later date!,” the president wrote.

That strategy, though, was rejected by more moderate lawmakers earlier this year, who are worried about people losing coverage with no plan to fill the gap.

 

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Tags Bob Corker John Thune Mike Lee Rand Paul Rob Portman Shelley Moore Capito Ted Cruz
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