Senate GOP outlines revised health bill

Greg Nash

Republican leaders on Tuesday outlined a revised ObamaCare replacement bill that will be unveiled on Thursday ahead of a planned vote next week.

The revisions are aimed at winning over additional support, but it remains deeply in doubt whether the bill can get 50 votes.

Importantly, senators said the Medicaid sections of the bill would remain largely unchanged from the initial draft, a blow to moderates who had pushed for easing cuts to Medicaid. That means a new cap on Medicaid spending will still drop after 2025, leading to deeper cuts opposed by moderates. And funds for ObamaCare’s expansion of Medicaid will still end in 2024.

Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), a member of leadership, said “what we had in the original bill has not changed with regard to Medicaid.”

{mosads}A change from the initial draft, though, is that senators said they expect two ObamaCare taxes on the wealthy will not be repealed, providing additional revenue for the bill. Those taxes are a 3.8 percent tax on investment income and a 0.9 percent payroll tax.

Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), who has been pushing for keeping those taxes, said he expected the money would be used to increase the generosity of the tax credits in the bill.

“I’m almost positive the issue of the appropriate amount of tax credits is going to be addressed,” Corker told reporters.

“There’s going to be some money going to additional subsidies,” he said. “Someone making $12,000 a year getting a $6,000 deductible plan probably doesn’t work so well.”

A “stability fund” that helps bring down premium costs is also expected to be increased, senators said. Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) said Tuesday that the $112 billion stability fund in the initial bill would be increased “probably half again as much” in the revised bill. 

A controversial conservative amendment from Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Mike Lee (R-Utah) remains up in the air.

Corker said there will be two drafts of the bill provided on Thursday, one with the amendment and one without.

Leaders have said they are still waiting on the Congressional Budget Office analysis of the amendment before making a decision on including the change or not.

Some conservatives have raised fears that the CBO was not given information fast enough to be able to score the amendment in time.

The CBO score of the overall bill is expected Monday.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), a key holdout on the bill, said there were no changes made to either of the drafts that address her concerns.

Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), another moderate who has been a “no” on the bill, told reporters before the luncheon that she would need substantial changes to be able to support it.

“I will say that from my perspective it is not sufficient to just make minor changes in the bill. Tweaks are not to be sufficient to win my support,” she said. 

“I hope it’s been a complete overhaul but I have no idea,” she said.

Tags Bob Corker John Barrasso John Cornyn Lisa Murkowski Mike Lee Susan Collins Ted Cruz

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