As America is being focused on Trump’s firing of FBI chief James Comey and the alleged Trump-Russia collusion, Senate Republicans are working against the clock on a better version of the health care bill that will dismantle Obamacare.
A Short-Term Bill in the Making
The U.S. House passed the first version of the bill earlier this month, but experts had predicted that the bill will face a major makeover in the U.S. Senate. According to several Senators, their colleagues plan to come up with a short-term bill if negotiations continue to drag on.
The new version may include new funds to stabilize markets and reduce out-of-pocket payments for low-income people along with an effort to allow states impose their own, less expensive policies.
It is unclear if Democratic Senators will join in, but Republicans hope so. Sen. Lamar Alexander who chairs the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee talked about a “two-step process” that will make healthcare affordable for many.
In 2018 and ’19, we’d basically be a rescue team to make sure people can buy insurance,
This approach includes the possibility of an extended individual mandate which forces Americans to purchase health insurance or face fines. The individual mandate is one of the many parts of Obamacare that Republicans detest. However, the mandate props up markets and forces more people to buy insurance.
Alexander acknowledged that a single bill cannot fix short- and long-term issues without a “strong bias”. He believes that until the GOP can do the “real thing” it should focus on the “next best thing.”
The Democratic Party however strongly opposes a full repeal. So, the GOP will need 50 of their 52 Senators to cast an “yes” vote to pass the bill, with VP Mike Pence having the tie-breaking vote.
Time is Ticking
Now time is of the essence, with the scandals dogging the White House and distracting the American public from the real issues. Health insurers could grow even more nervous over the White House chaos and decide to either hike the cost of insurance or pull out.
In addition, the longer they spend on drafting the bill, the less time Republicans will have to slash taxes and enact other GOP priorities.
Under the House version, the federal funds granted to states to expand Medicaid to more people will be gone in 2020. Conservatives in senate think the payments should be phased out as early as 2018. However, 20 Republican senators represent states that provide their voters with the expanded version of Medicaid, so they want payment reduced over many years.
Republican senators are also divided over how deep the cuts should be for the spending on the Medicaid program as a whole. They are also zooming on the federal aid to states when giving subsidizing healthcare of people with costly medical conditions and seeking new ways to prevent insurers from fleeing low-yielding markets.
Image Source: Wikimedia