US Senate Republicans were preparing to finally unveil their health care overhaul today aimed at fulfilling President Donald Trump’s pledge to repeal Obamacare, as Democrats ready a fight to block the controversial measure. The bill reportedly will be a slightly less austere version of the one that passed the House of Representatives last month.
The House legislation would roll back the expansion of Medicaid, slash Obamacare taxes and, according to a non-partisan congressional forecast, leave 23 million fewer people insured than under current law.
Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has announced a rollout of the Senate bill today morning, as Republicans huddled in the US Capitol to discuss the new legislation. But with the entire bill-drafting process shrouded in secrecy, some Republicans have voiced skepticism about the legislation and how it might impact their constituents.
The White House has dodged questions about the bill. Last week, Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price acknowledged he had not seen it. But at a campaign-style rally in the heartland state of Iowa late yesterday, Trump teased supporters with a preview. “I hope we’re going to surprise you with a really good plan,” he said in Cedar Rapids.
“You know I’ve been talking about a plan with heart. I said ‘Add some money to it!'” The proposals stand to upend the landmark Affordable Care Act signed into law by former president Barack Obama. According to The Washington Post, the draft legislation would dramatically roll back the US Medicaid system, but reduce the impact on Americans who stood to lose the most under the House version.
Republicans hold 52 out of 100 seats in the Senate and the latest bill is designed to thread the needle to find an agreement between the conservative wing and more moderate Republicans.
The Post reported that the Senate version would still radically alter “Obamacare” by reducing taxes created by the 2010 law, limiting the expansion of Medicaid, reconfiguring subsidies and giving states wider abilities to opt out of regulations.
Although the Senate proposal ends Medicaid’s expansion more slowly than the House bill, it would institute deeper long-term cuts to the program that helps low-income Americans, the Post said. The new legislation would also eliminate federal funding for Planned Parenthood, a non-profit reproductive health organisation that Trump’s administration has targeted for cuts.
Debate could begin on the measure next week. McConnell said he wants a final vote by the end of this month. Democrats have railed against the secretive process and vowed an all-out fight to try and stop the measure. If Democrats unite against the bill and three Republicans join their side, the legislation is effectively blocked.