GOP: Cruz-Lee proposal hinges on budget score

GOP: Cruz-Lee proposal hinges on budget score
© Greg Nash

Senate Republican leaders say whether they make a controversial conservative change to their healthcare bill depends on the results of an analysis from the Congressional Budget Office. 

The proposal from Sens. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward Cruz5 takeaways from Barr’s testimony Republicans seek to temper fallout from latest Russia bombshells Cruz says Americans outside Beltway unconcerned with Mueller investigation MORE (R-Texas) and Mike LeeMichael (Mike) Shumway LeeHillicon Valley: Trump AG pick signals new scrutiny on tech giants | Wireless providers in new privacy storm | SEC brings charges in agency hack | Facebook to invest 0M in local news AG pick Barr wants closer scrutiny of Silicon Valley 'behemoths' Grassroots political participation is under attack in Utah and GOP is fighting back MORE (R-Utah), which is key to winning their support, is currently being analyzed by the CBO. 

“I think it's going to depend entirely — I think a lot of it is going to depend on how CBO evaluates it,” Sen. John ThuneJohn Randolph ThuneLeaders nix recess with no shutdown deal in sight Senate advances measure bucking Trump on Russia sanctions Mnuchin meets with Senate GOP to shore up ranks on Russia sanctions vote MORE (S.D.), the No. 3 Senate Republican, told reporters Monday evening after a leadership meeting. 

ADVERTISEMENT

“What does this do to coverage numbers and how does it affect the overall pool and how does it affect rates for everybody else that's left in the pool?” Thune added. 

The proposal would allow insurers to offer plans that do not meet ObamaCare regulations as long as they also offered a plan that does. Cruz and Lee argue it would increase choices for consumers and allow younger and healthier people to buy cheaper plans. 

The proposal has drawn pushback from more moderate members of the conference, who worry that only sick people would be left buying the ObamaCare plans, spiking their premiums. 

“I do think it’s going to be hard to get support,” Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin HatchOrrin Grant HatchLive coverage: Trump AG pick grilled on Mueller probe at confirmation hearing Trump praises RNC chairwoman after she criticizes her uncle Mitt Romney Romney sworn in as senator MORE (R-Utah) said of the proposal. 

“I think we’re trying to get some basic information from the CBO, about what that score would look like,” added Sen. John CornynJohn CornynTrump created a competition of crises: The border or the shutdown Senators restart shutdown talks — and quickly hit roadblocks Former GOP rep: We would be 'storming the White House' if Obama mulled national emergency MORE (Texas), the No. 2 Republican in the upper chamber. “A lot of people, including me, support the principle, but we need to know what the numbers look like.”

Cruz and Lee’s support for the bill is crucial to it having the votes to pass, and it is unclear how they would support the bill without the amendment. But its inclusion could further alienate moderates who already oppose the bill. 

Republicans are expected to add $45 billion for opioid abuse treatment to try to win over moderates. But that so far has not been enough. 

Moderates are also looking for Medicaid changes. 

Thune said that the number of years to phase out the funds for ObamaCare's Medicaid expansion is relatively settled and unlikely to change from the initial bill, which ends the funds in 2024. 

He said a bigger issue is how quickly a new cap on overall Medicaid funding would grow after 2025. Some moderates want to raise the cap so it cuts Medicaid spending less deeply. 

Thune said the level of the cap would likely be voted on as an amendment on the Senate floor either way. 

Separately, he added it is possible that there could be changes to the tax credits in the bill to make them more generous, but emphasized there is already funding in a stability fund aimed at helping people afford coverage. 

That stability fund could be increased.   

Jordain Carney contributed.