ST. GEORGE – Senate Republicans rolled out an updated draft of their health care bill Thursday. The newest version of the bill will let insurers sell cheaper, minimal policies while also supplying billions in funding to combat opioid drug abuse.
While the bill, officially called the “Better Care Reconciliation Act,” has already drawn fire from Senate Democrats and at least two GOP senators, others such as Sen. Orrin Hatch, support it. He expressed his support for the updated BCRA draft in a statement Thursday:
Today’s updated discussion draft contains major victories for Utah. It represents a compromise, but one that puts patients first, particularly in Utah where I’ve been pleased to see such a high level of engagement on this critical issue. I look forward to working with my colleagues to see us fulfill our promise to repeal Obamacare. We will continue to have discussions and plan to hold a robust amendment process once we are able to move this bill to the Senate floor.
Hatch also released a video of him speaking on the Senate floor in favor of the legislation’s revised draft.
“Let me say at the outset that this bill isn’t perfect,” Hatch said in the video, adding he would have done some things “very differently” if he had the chance.
“But, one thing I’ve learned in my 40 years in the Senate is that, people who demand purity and perfection when it comes to legislation usually end up disappointed and rarely accomplish anything productive” he said. “That’s particularly true when we’re talking about complex policy matters.”
The video can be viewed at the top of this article.
Revisions to the health care bill aim at gaining conservative support. This includes a version of an amendment drafted by Sen. Ted Cruz, of Texas, which would allow insurers to sell cheaper policies that provide a minimal amount of coverage. Those policies must meet strict coverage requirements set by President Barack Obama’s 2010 statute.
Moderate Republicans have objected to the idea as they worry it will make policies excessively costly for people with preexisting conditions.
Sen. Mike Lee. R-Utah, who helped Cruz draft the amendment, said over Twitter Thursday morning that he had yet to see the provision based on the one they originally crafted.
“I have not seen it or agreed to it,” Lee said. “I am withholding judgment and look forward to reading it.”
Later in the day, Lee issued the following statement:
The new Senate health care bill is substantially different from the version released last month and it is unclear to me whether it has improved. I will need time to study the new version and speak with experts about whether it does enough to lower health insurance premiums for middle class families.
Money aimed at fighting opioid abuse and lowering insurance costs
Additional revisions also include putting $45 billion toward fighting opioid drug abuse, as well as allowing people to use money from their health savings accounts to pay health insurance premiums.
The revised bill also provides an additional $70 billion on top of the original bill’s $112 billion that is aimed at helping curb rising health insurance costs for enrollees.
Medicaid and taxes
The retooled measure retains a plan to phase out the extra money 31 states have used to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, and to tightly limit the overall program’s future growth.
According to CNN, the bill calls for $772 billion to be cut from Medicaid by 2026, which could leave 15 million fewer people insured by the system.
Taxes placed on those making more than $250,000 annually under the former President Barack Obama’s health law would remain under the revised bill.
Keeping the taxes helps save the government $320 billion over the next decade, CNN reports.
The measure would eliminate other tax boosts Obama levied on insurers, pharmaceutical producers and other health industry companies.
As Senate Democrats have already expressed uniform opposition to the revised bill, it will need 50 of the 52 Republican senators to vote in favor of it. Two Republican senators, Sens. Rand Paul, of Kentucky, and Susan Collins, of Maine, have already declared their intent to vote down the bill. A vote is slated to take place next week.
Paul told reporters the revised measure has nothing “remotely resembling repeal.” Collins has long complained the measure will toss millions off coverage and objected to its Medicaid cuts.
Seeking to rally support, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, reminded GOP senators that obliterating the Affordable Care Act of 2010 has been a central tenet for the party’s candidates.
“This is our chance to bring about changes we’ve been talking about since Obamacare was forced on the American people,” he said.
The Associated Press contributed to this article.
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