UPDATE: McConnell announces plan for healthcare legislation after Senate bill fails

UPDATE 3 — 7/18, 1:28 p.m. EDT: Following Sens. Mike Lee (R-Utah) and Jerry Moran’s (R-Kan.) announcement late Monday they would not support the Senate’s healthcare plan to repeal-and-replace the Affordable Care Act, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell indicated his conference will attempt to bring the bill’s House version up for a vote before drafting an amendment that would only repeal Obamacare.

President Trump also chimed in Monday night and Tuesday morning, tweeting his support for the revised plan.

Three GOP senators have already announced they will not support repeal-only legislation: Maine’s Susan Collins, West Virginia’s Shelley Moore Capito and Alaska’s Lisa Murkowski.

 

UPDATE 2 — 7/16, 9:04 a.m. EDT: Roll Call pointed-out Friday that the revised Senate Obamacare repeal plan will exempt congressional members from new health insurance laws due to its would-be passage through the budget reconciliation process, which only requires a simple 51-vote majority.

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) has proposed an amendment to cancel the exemption, but passage would require a filibuster-proof majority of 60 votes.

In related news, Senate Majority Leader McConnell announced late-Saturday that a vote on the Better Care Reconciliation Act will be delayed until Arizona’s John McCain recovers from surgery to remove a blood clot above the eye.

 

UPDATE — 5:26 p.m. EDT: President Trump used the power of the bully pulpit to pressure the Senate to pass proposed Obamacare repeal legislation, tweeting the following before departing Paris for the U.S. on Friday:

 

AP also reported the White House has reached out to Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval as a back-channel to convince Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.) to support the healthcare reform bill. Both Nevada Republicans have expressed concern about the legislation’s reduction of Medicaid funding.

 

Republican senators attempting to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA) unveiled a revised version of the already-passed House bill, the American Health Care Act, on Thursday with the hope of generating enough momentum to bring the measure to a floor vote by early next week.

In unveiling the Better Care Reconciliation Act (BCRA), the Republican-controlled Senate hopes to draw back enough defecting GOP members, which has imperiled the bill’s passage.

Under the new Senate bill, low-cost insurance plans which do not embrace Obamacare’s “10 essential health benefits” are again allowed to be offered; two key ACA taxes, a 3.8 percent net investment income surtax and 0.9 percent surtax for a Medicare program aimed at the elderly remain in place and limits on deductions for executive pay in the healthcare industry are retained.

The bill, however, does target Obamacare taxes.  Similar to the ACA, tax credits for poor Americans are extended, but reduced; and the new bill takes aim at Obamacare taxes on the medical device, pharmaceutical and insurance industries.  Most important, the BCRA completely dismantles the Obamacare insurance “mandate” entirely.

According to the revised BCRA, a planned face lift for Medicaid is untouched and undoes the health program’s extension from three to six years.  An amendment in the overhauled BCRA would apply deep cuts in Medicaid, in excess of $800 billion, after 10 years and would cut 35 percent from the program by 2036.

The bill also adds $70 billion on top of the $112 billion from the House plan to cover healthcare costs in states to offset premium costs.

Despite the proposed changes, at least two GOP senators, Susan Collins (Maine) and Rand Paul (Ky.) have signaled opposition to the bill and plan to vote “no”, meaning Majority Leader Mitch McConnell will need all 50 remaining members of his Republican conference to vote in favor for BCRA to pass.

On Wednesday, President Trump indicated he’d be “very angry” if the Senate did not pass an Obamacare repeal-and-replace bill, but acknowledged a day later how hard passing such complicated legislation is.

“I’d say the only thing more difficult than peace between Israel and the Palestinians is healthcare,” Trump told reporters on Air Force One. “But I think we’re going to have something that’s really good and that people are going to like.”

With the prospects of BCRA’s passage looking dim, Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Bill Cassidy (R-La.) have announced an alternative healthcare plan which will keep Obamacare’s essential health benefits and most taxes, but block grant all of the program’s federal money to the states so governors can make their own reforms.

Annual federal healthcare tax revenue under the Graham-Cassidy plan is estimated to be approximately $500 billion, as the bill proposes to do-away with Obamacare’s medical device tax.

“Just like no two patients are the same, no two states’ health care needs are the same. A solution that works in California may not work in Virginia,” said Graham.

“These funds are already being spent on Obamacare, but instead of having Washington decide, we’ll empower each individual state to choose the path that works best for them.”

 

[Reuters] [AP] [CNN] [Politico] [NPR] [Photo courtesy National Compass]