“Repeal and replace” has been the battlecry of conservatives ever since former President Barack Obama’s poorly-conceived healthcare law was put into place.
Thursday, ObamaCare may finally be out the window — and Republican representatives are set to finally reveal it’s replacement.
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What does President Donald Trump think of it? Insiders say he approves…. mostly.
The Senate Republicans plan would revamp Medicaid, end penalties for people not buying insurance and erase a huge tax burden as part of their long-awaited plan to scuttle Obama’s health care law, congressional aides and lobbyists say.
After weeks of closed-door meetings that angered liberals, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell plans to release the proposal Thursday. The package represents McConnell’s attempt to quell criticism by establishment insiders while winning the conservative support he needs in a vote he hopes to stage next week.
In a departure from the version the House approved last month, which President Donald Trump privately called “mean,” the Senate plan would drop the House’s waivers allowing states to let insurers boost premiums on some people with pre-existing conditions.
It would also largely retain the subsidies Obama provided to help millions buy insurance, which are pegged mostly to people’s incomes and the premiums they pay.
The House’s tax credits were tied to people’s ages, a change the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office said would boost out-of-pocket costs to many lower earners. Starting in 2020, the Senate version would begin shifting increasing amounts of tax credits away from higher earners, making more funds available to lower-income recipients, some officials said.
Facing uniform Democratic opposition, the Senate plan would fail if just three of the chamber’s 52 Republicans defect. More than half a dozen GOP senators have expressed problems with the measure, and a defeat would be a major setback for Trump and McConnell on one of their party’s top priorities.
“We have a responsibility to move forward, and we are,” said McConnell.
GOP Senate leaders were eager for a seal of approval from Trump, who had urged them to produce a bill more “generous” than the House’s.
“It’s going to be important to get the president’s support to get us across the finish line,” No. 2 Senate GOP leader John Cornyn of Texas said Wednesday of White House officials.
The sources said that in some instances, the documents McConnell planned to release might suggest optional approaches for issues that remain in dispute among Republicans.
That could include the number of years the bill would take to phase out the extra money Obama provided to expand the federal-state Medicaid program for the poor and disabled to millions of additional low earners.
The House-passed bill would halt the extra funds for new beneficiaries in 2020. But Republicans from states that expanded Medicaid, like Ohio’s Rob Portman, want to extend that phase-out to seven years.
The Senate proposal would also impose annual limits on the federal Medicaid funds that would go to each state, which would tighten even further beginning in 2025. Unlimited federal dollars now flow to each state for the program, covering all eligible beneficiaries and services.
Like the House bill, the Senate measure would defund Planned Parenthood, two sources said. Many Republicans have long fought that organization because it provides abortions.
But it was unclear if, or how, the Senate would follow the House’s path and forbid the use of healthcare tax credits to buy abortions. Such a prohibition is a major demand by conservatives, but special rules the Senate is using to ease passage of the legislation restrict the policy changes the measure can include.
The Senate would end the tax penalties Obama’s law created for people not buying insurance and larger employers not offering coverage to workers. The so-called individual mandate — aimed at keeping insurance markets solvent by prompting younger, healthier people to buy policies — has long been one of the GOP’s favorite targets.
To help pay for its expanded coverage to around 20 million more people, Obama’s law increased taxes on higher income people, medical industry companies and others, totaling around $1 trillion over a decade. Like the House bill, the Senate plan would repeal or delay those tax boosts.
The House waiver allowing higher premiums for some people with pre-existing serious illnesses was added shortly before that chamber approved its bill last month and helped attract conservative support. It has come under widespread criticism from Democrats and helped prompt some moderate House Republicans to vote against the measure.
Conservatives like Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., have warned they could oppose the bill if it doesn’t go far enough in dismantling Obama’s law. Moderates including Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, have expressed concern that the measure would cause many to lose coverage.
The Associated Press contributed to this article