It’s been 5 months since President Donald Trump took office, and the swamp still needs to be drained!
Establishment Republicans in Congress have been talking about the need to repeal and replace Obamacare since former President Barack Obama passed it. But apparently talking is all they’ve been doing – because they have no plan of action.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell finally unwrapped his plan for dismantling Obama’s health care law.
But he’s having trouble persuading enough Republicans to back the measure and avert a defeat that could be shattering for Trump and the GOP.
McConnell released the bill Thursday after weeks of closed-door meetings searching for middle ground between conservative senators seeking an aggressive repeal of Obama’s statute and centrists warning about going too far. Erasing Obama’s law has been a marquee pledge for Trump and virtually the entire party for years.
The bill would cut and redesign the Medicaid program for low-income and disabled people, and erase taxes on higher earners and the medical industry that helped pay for the roughly 20 million Americans covered by Obama’s law.
It would let insurers provide fewer benefits, offer less generous subsidies than Obama to help people buy policies and end the statute’s tax penalties on people who don’t buy policies and on larger firms that don’t offer coverage to workers.
Shortly after the 142-page bill was distributed, more than a half-dozen GOP lawmakers signaled concerns or initial opposition. McConnell, R-Ky., has little margin for error: Facing unanimous Democratic opposition, “no” votes by just three of the 52 GOP senators would sink the legislation.
While the insider Republicans are plotting to sabotage the deal – that they have had 8 whopping years to come up with – Trump tweeted his support:
I am very supportive of the Senate #HealthcareBill. Look forward to making it really special! Remember, ObamaCare is dead.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 22, 2017
McConnell, eager to approve the legislation next week, indicated he was open to changes before it reaches the Senate floor. But he said it was time to act.
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“No amount of eleventh hour reality-denying or buck-passing by Democrats is going to change the fact that more Americans are going to get hurt unless we do something,” he said.
Four conservative senators expressed opposition but openness to talks: Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas, Rand Paul of Kentucky, Mike Lee of Utah and Ron Johnson of Wisconsin. They said the measure missed delivering a GOP promise to Americans “to repeal Obamacare and lower their health care costs.”
In an interview with Fox News Channel, Trump was asked about the four conservatives opposing the bill. “Well, they’re also four good guys, four friends of mine, and I think that they’ll probably get there,” he said. “We’ll have to see.”
The Senate bill would phase out extra money Obama’s law provides to 31 states that agreed to expand coverage under the federal-state Medicaid program. Those additional funds would continue through 2020, then gradually fall and disappear entirely in 2024.
The measure largely uses people’s incomes as the yardstick for helping those without workplace coverage to buy private insurance. That would focus the aid more on people with lower incomes than the House legislation, which bases its subsidies on age.
Caroline Pearson, a senior vice president of the consulting firm Avalare Health, said the Senate subsidies would be smaller than Obama’s because they’re keyed to the cost of a bare-bones plan and because additional help now provided for deductibles and copayments would eventually be discontinued.
The bill would let states get waivers to ignore some coverage requirements under Obama’s law, such as specific health services insurers must now cover.
States could not get exemptions to Obama’s prohibition against charging higher premiums for some people with pre-existing medical conditions, but the subsidies would be lower, making coverage less affordable, Pearson said.
For the next two years, the Senate would also provide money that insurers use to help lower out-of-pocket costs for millions of lower income people.
The Associated Press contributed to this article.