In what could very well end up being just another exercise in futility, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has just released a new version of a healthcare plan which, among other things, incorporates demands from Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Senator Mike Lee (R-UT) to allow insurers to sell low-cost, skimpier plans all in an effort to draw conservative support for the new bill.
Called the "Consumer Freedom Amendment," we highlighted the main points of the Cruz/Lee proposal last month:
The "Consumer Freedom Amendment" would leave existing ObamaCare plans on the individual market, while also allowing insurers to sell plans that don't comply with requirements of the Affordable Care Act.
"What that does — it leaves existing plans on the market but it gives new options so that people can purchase far more affordable health insurance. It will enable a lot more people to be able to afford buying health insurance," Cruz told The Hill on Thursday afternoon.
Cruz's amendment would allow insurers to continue offering plans that follow ObamaCare's "Title One" requirements, including essential health benefits, which mandates 10 services insurers must cover with no cost-sharing.
But insurers could also sell skimpier, cheaper plans that don't cover those 10 services or meet other ObamaCare requirements.
"If a health insurer offers a plan consistent with the Title One mandates, insurers can also sell in that same state any other plans that consumers desire," Cruz said.
Of course, with precious little votes to spare, McConnell's new bill has plenty of handouts for moderate Republicans as well. The rewritten package would add $70 billion to the $112 billion McConnell originally sought that states could use to help insurers curb the growth of premiums and consumers' other out-of-pocket costs. It also has $45 billion for states to combat the misuse of drugs like opioids. That's a big boost from the $2 billion in the initial bill and an addition demanded by Republicans from states in the Midwest and Northeast that have been ravaged by the drugs.
As The Hill points out, the revised bill largely keeps the Medicaid sections the same, meaning that deeper cuts to the program will still begin in 2025, and the funds for ObamaCare’s expansion of Medicaid will still end in 2024. The changes to Medicaid emerged as a top concern of moderates such as Senators Rob Portman (R-Ohio), Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska).
The revised bill also restores some of the original Obamacare taxes on investment income and the payroll tax in an effort to help fund Medicare. Axios had more highlights:
An additional $70 billion to help states stabilize their markets and offset the costs of covering expensive patients — on top of more than $100 billion that was already there.
$45 billion to fight the opioid epidemic.
A provision allowing people to use tax-preferred health savings accounts to pay their premiums
Changes to the ACA that would let more consumers use tax subsidies to buy plans that only offer catastrophic coverage.
The bill would no longer repeal two of the ACA's tax increases on wealthy families, and it won't include a new tax break for health-care executives.
In other words, more provisions that simply make the bill look and feel an awful lot like Obamacare...a fact that Senator Rand Paul pointed out in an op-ed just yesterday in which he blasted McConnell's new bill as more or less a capitulation by Republicans to simply "keep Obamacare."
I miss the old days, when Republicans stood for repealing Obamacare. Republicans across the country and every member of my caucus campaigned on repeal – often declaring they would tear out Obamacare “root and branch!”
The Senate Obamacare bill does not repeal Obamacare. I want to repeat that so everyone realizes why I’ll vote “no” as it stands now:
The Senate Obamacare bill does not repeal Obamacare. Not even close.
Seems that McConnell is trying to 'have his cake and eat it too' with efforts to appeal to both conservative and moderate elements of the Republican party.
Will he be successful? John Cornyn seems to think so:
US SENATOR CORNYN, NO. 2 REPUBLICAN, SAYS WILL HAVE ENOUGH SUPPORT TO PASS HEALTHCARE BILL BY THE TIME IT IS PUT TO A VOTE
Of course, it seems like we've heard that somewhere before...
Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn tells @marykbruce: "I expect to have the votes to get this done and yes we will vote this week."— Mariam Khan (@MKhan47) June 27, 2017
The full text of the new bill can be read here: