Mitch McConnell publicly released the GOP’s secretive health care bill on Thursday morning. Here are some of the most important points.
Why the Senate made their own bill
Though the House Republican’s American Health Care Act was approved last month, the Senate GOP released their own health care bill this morning. The new Senate bill is less radical than the House bill in some respects, possibly to ease tensions between moderate and conservative Republicans.
To overturn President Obama’s Affordable Care Act, the Senate would need to pass its own health care bill, but that task is trickier than it sounds. To pass a new health care bill, 50 Senators need to vote in favor of it, and there are only 52 Republican senators.
Because of this tight margin, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is desperately trying to win over moderate Republican senators, especially those who were in favor of Obamacare.
The Senate’s “Better Care Reconciliation Act” is still incredibly similar to the House bill, but the new bill also maintains parts of Obamacare.
What changed from the House bill?
The Senate bill tries to establish a middle ground between Obamacare and the House bill, offering accommodations to both moderates and conservatives.
The Senate legislation appeals to conservatives because it would still severely cut federal Medicaid support, eliminate Obamacare’s taxes and repeal Obamacare’s mandate.
Regarding Medicaid, the Senate bill would maintain and fund Obamacare’s enhanced Medicaid expansion through 2021. The House bill planned to end enhanced support in 2020, but the Senate bill would wait until 2021 to begin a three-year phase-out.
The new bill would ultimately shrink Medicare more than the House bill. By 2025, the bill would link the annual growth rate of Medicaid funds to standard inflation, instead of the more generous medical inflation. According to CNN Politics, this change “would likely force states to cut enrollment, benefits or provider payments.”
Though it’s far from liberal, the Senate bill somewhat panders to moderate Republicans by keeping Obamacare subsidies, which help people pay for individual coverage.
The Senate bill would maintain Obamacare’s premium subsidies structure, but it would change the limit and the amount.
Currently, Americans earning between 100 percent and 400 percent of the federal poverty level are eligible, but by 2020, the new bill would cap earnings at 350 percent. People would also receive less assistance. Under Obamacare, individuals receive $47,550, which would be cut to $41,580, and families of four receive $97,200, which would be pared down to $85,050.
On the one hand, this move would open subsidies to people below the poverty level, giving more assistance to enrollees in states that didn’t expand Medicaid. On the other, it would also severely reduce coverage for middle-class families.
The Senate bill would also repeal nearly all of Obamacare’s taxes, making it appealing for high-income families.
The new Senate bill would be slightly better for low-income families than the House bill, and it would be significantly better for wealthy families than Obamacare was, but poor and middle-class families would be hit hard.
The Senate bill also no longer includes parts of the House bill that allowed states to opt out of protections for patients with pre-existing conditions. The new bill specifies that insurers would no longer be allowed to charge higher premiums to people with pre-existing conditions.
Though the Senate bill uses language that doesn’t restrict federally subsidized health plans from covering abortions, as in the House bill, it still would defund Planned Parenthood for one year.
The reactions to the Senate bill are mixed. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said that the new bill is “every bit as bad” as the House bill.
“The Senate Republican health care bill is a wolf in sheep’s clothing,” Schumer said. “Only this wolf has even sharper teeth than the House bill.”
Takeaway: Compromises aren’t always resolutions
Though the new bill attempts to mediate the concerns of both the right and the left, it may just end up displeasing everyone. It’s pick-and-choose approach to merging Obamacare with the House bill is leaving both liberal and conservative lawmakers feeling unsatisfied.
An analysis from the Congressional Budget Office will break down the cuts that Medicaid is facing, how much the bill would cost and how many people would be covered by it. Senate Republicans are hoping that the Better Care Reconciliation Act will receive a better CBO outcome than the House bill did.
The CBO report is expected to be released early next week, shortly before senators are expected to vote on it.
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