Monday August 19th, 2019 3:25PM

Senate GOP releases bill to cut Medicaid, alter 'Obamacare'

By The Associated Press
Related Articles
  Contact Editor

WASHINGTON (AP) — Senate Republicans released their long-awaited bill Thursday to dismantle much of Barack Obama's health care law, proposing to cut Medicaid and erase tax boosts that helped Obama finance his expansion of coverage. The measure encountered immediate trouble as four GOP senators said they opposed it but were open to negotiations.

The bill would provide less-generous tax credits to help people buy insurance and let states get waivers to ignore some coverage standards that "Obamacare" requires of insurers. And it would end the tax penalties under Obama's law on people who don't buy insurance — the so-called individual mandate — and on larger companies that don't offer coverage to their employees.

The measure represents the Senate GOP's effort to achieve a top tier priority for President Donald Trump and virtually all Republican members of Congress. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., hopes to push it through his chamber next week, but solid Democratic opposition — and complaints from at least a half-dozen Republicans — have left its fate unclear.

"We have to act," McConnell said on the Senate floor. "Because Obamacare is a direct attack on the middle class, and American families deserve better than its failing status quo."

But some Republican senators, as well as all the Senate's Democrats, have complained about McConnell's proposal, the secrecy with which he drafted it and the speed with which he'd like to whisk it to passage. McConnell has only a thin margin of error: The bill would fail if just three of the Senate's 52 GOP senators oppose it.

Democrats gathered on the Senate floor and defended Obama's 2010 overhaul. They said GOP characterizations of the law as failing are wrong and said the Republican plan would boot millions off coverage and leave others facing higher out-of-pocket costs.

"We live in the wealthiest country on earth. Surely we can do better than what the Republican health care bill promises," said Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y.

Four GOP conservative senators — Texas' Ted Cruz, Mike Lee of Utah, Kentucky's Rand Paul and Ron Johnson of Wisconsin — said the bill falls short of GOP promises to erase Obama's law and lower people's costs. But they said they were "open to negotiation and obtaining more information."

Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev., facing a tough re-election fight next year, said he had "serious concerns' about the bill's Medicaid reductions.

"If the bill is good for Nevada, I'll vote for it and if it's not, I won't," said Heller, whose state added 200,000 additional people under Obama's law.

The House approved its version of the bill last month. Though he lauded its passage in a Rose Garden ceremony, Trump last week privately called the House measure "mean" and called on senators to make their version more "generous."

At the White House on Thursday, Trump expressed hope for quick action.

"We'll hopefully get something done, and it will be something with heart and very meaningful," he said

The bill would phase out the extra money Obama's law provides to states that have expanded coverage under the federal-state Medicaid program for low-income people. The additional funds would continue through 2020, and be gradually reduced until they are entirely eliminated in 2024.

Ending Obama's expansion has been a major problem for some GOP senators. Some from states that have expanded the program have battled to prolong the phase-out, while conservative Republicans have sought to halt the funds quickly.

Beginning in 2020, the Senate measure would also limit the federal funds states get each year for Medicaid. The program currently gives states all the money needed to cover eligible recipients and procedures.

The Senate bill would also reduce subsidies now provided to help people without workplace coverage get private health insurance, said Caroline Pearson, a senior vice president of the health care consulting firm Avalare Health.

Unlike the House bill, which bases its subsidies for private insurance on age, the Senate bill uses age and income. That focuses financial assistance on people with lower incomes.

Pearson said those subsidies will be smaller than under current law. That's because they're keyed to the cost of a bare-bones plan, and because additional help now provided for deductibles and copayments would be discontinued.

Under Obama's law, "many of those people would have gotten much more generous plans," she said.

The bill would let states get waivers to ignore some coverage requirements under Obama's law, such as specific health services insurers must now cover. States could not get exemptions to Obama's prohibition against charging higher premiums for some people with pre-existing medical conditions, but the subsidies would be lower, Pearson said, making coverage less unaffordable.

Like the House bill, the Senate measure would block federal payments to Planned Parenthood. Many Republicans have long fought that organization because it provides abortions.

It would also bar the use of the bill's health care tax credits to buy coverage that includes abortions, a major demand for conservatives. That language could be forced out of the bill for procedural reasons, which would threaten support from conservatives, but Republicans would seek other ways to retain the restriction.

The Senate would provide $50 billion over the next four years that states could use in an effort to shore up insurance markets around the country.

For the next two years, it would also provide money that insurers use to help lower out-of-pocket costs for millions of lower income people. Trump has been threatening to discontinue those payments, and some insurance companies have cited uncertainty over those funds as reasons why they are abandoning some markets and boosting premiums.

The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office said the House bill would cause 23 million people to lose coverage by 2026. The budget office's analysis of the Senate measure is expected in the next few days.

  • Associated Categories: U.S. News, Local/State News, Politics, Associated Press (AP), AP National News, AP Online National News, Top General short headlines, AP Online Headlines - Washington, AP Online Congress News, AP Health, AP Business, AP Business - Economy, AP Business - Industries, AP Business - Financial Services
© Copyright 2019
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
Senate GOP releases bill to cut Medicaid, alter 'Obamacare'
Senate Republicans have released their long-awaited bill dismantling much of Barack Obama's health care law
11:31AM ( 5 minutes ago )
The Latest: Trump hopes for Senate health bill 'with heart'
President Donald Trump is expressing hope that the Senate will pass a health care plan "with heart" following the release of a Republican plan to dismantle President Barack Obama's health law
11:23AM ( 12 minutes ago )
The Latest: Official: Russia proposing monitors inside Syria
A senior Turkish official says Russia has proposed deploying troops from Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan to Syria, to monitor de-escalation zones there
11:18AM ( 17 minutes ago )
Associated Press (AP)
Experts: US exiting climate pact may doom some small islands
With the US pulling out of Paris climate accord, scientists and government leaders say some small island nations may not survive
10:50AM ( 45 minutes ago )
Trump disputes Russian interference in 2016 election
President Donald Trump appeared to cast doubt on the assessment of 17 U.S. intelligence agencies that blame Russia for election meddling, questioning Thursday why the Obama administration didn't try to stop it
10:50AM ( 46 minutes ago )
Mourners gather for funeral of student detained in N Korea
Hundreds of mourners have celebrated the life of an American college student who was detained in North Korea for over a year and died shortly after being returned home to Ohio in a coma
10:44AM ( 51 minutes ago )
AP National News
IS militants destroy 12th century mosque in Iraq's Mosul
Iraq says Islamic State group detonated explosives, blowing up 12th century mosque in Mosul with famous leaning minaret
8:51AM ( 2 hours ago )
AP sources: Senate GOP health bill would reshape Obama law
Congressional aides and lobbyists say Senate Republicans would cut Medicaid, end penalties for people not buying insurance and erase a raft of tax increases as part of their long-awaited health care bill
7:59AM ( 3 hours ago )
10 Things to Know for Today
Among 10 Things to Know: AP: US interrogates detainees in Yemen prisons rife with torture; AP sources: Senate GOP health bill would reshape 'Obamacare'; Tropical Storm Cindy lashes Gulf Coast states
6:00AM ( 5 hours ago )
Top General short headlines
The Latest: Trump lashes out at Democrats after Georgia win
President Donald Trump is lashing out at top Democrats on Twitter
10:39AM ( 57 minutes ago )
The Latest: Senate Republicans holding private meeting
Senate Republicans are holding a private meeting to hear from leaders about their long-awaited plan for eliminating much of President Barack Obama's health law
10:38AM ( 58 minutes ago )
Trump calls for stricter limits on welfare for immigrants
President Donald Trump says he'll pursue legislation that would bar immigrants from being eligible for welfare for at least five years _ though most already are
9:05AM ( 2 hours ago )
AP Online Headlines - Washington
Oregon joins states where roadkill can be harvested for food
Under an Oregon roadkill bill passed overwhelmingly by the Legislature and signed last week by the governor, motorists who crash into the animals can now harvest the meat
3:47AM ( 7 hours ago )
Former immigration detainees challenge labor practices
People once held in a privately run Colorado immigration detention center are challenging the system used to keep it clean and maintained, arguing it borders on modern-day slavery
3:38AM ( 7 hours ago )
German Parliament backs plan to pull recon jets from Turkey
Germany's Parliament has voted by a wide majority to move reconnaissance jets flying anti-Islamic State missions from a base in Turkey amid ongoing friction between the two countries
3:22AM ( 8 hours ago )
AP Online Congress News
The Latest: Hungary's Orban annoyed with Macron at EU summit
The Hungarian prime minister is not among those infatuated by France's new centrist president, Emmanuel Macron
10:25AM ( 1 hour ago )
High winds, rain disrupts travel in Germany; 1 man killed
At least one person was killed, train lines were shut down and some planes were grounded as a low-pressure front brought high winds and driving rain to northern Germany
10:10AM ( 1 hour ago )
State-owned Qatar Airways seeks 10 pct stake in American
Qatar Airways is interest in buying about a 10 pct stake in American Airlines
9:39AM ( 1 hour ago )
AP Business
Oil prices rebound modestly but concerns remain
Oil prices recovered their poise Thursday after slumping to 10-month lows on concerns of a glut in the market.
8:13AM ( 3 hours ago )
AP Newsbreak: US, EU urge China to limit food import control
Food exporters including the United States and Europe are stepping up pressure on China to scale back plans for intensive inspections of imports that they say will hamper access to its fast-growing market
6:21AM ( 5 hours ago )
Global stocks lower after oil prices drag down Wall Street
Global stock markets are mostly lower after a fall in oil prices dragged down U.S. energy stocks
4:55AM ( 6 hours ago )
AP Business - Industries
Toshiba chooses US-Japan bidder for memory chip biz sale
Money-losing Toshiba Corp. has chosen a U.S.-Japan consortium as the preferred bidder in the sale of its lucrative memory chip business, but hurdles remain as an American joint-venture partner is opposing the move
4:09AM ( 1 day ago )
Toshiba prefers US-Japan bidder for memory chip biz sale
Troubled Japanese electronics giant Toshiba Corp. has chosen a U.S.-Japan consortium as the preferred bidder in its attempt to sell its lucrative memory chip business
12:05AM ( 1 day ago )
Barclays, former CEO charged with fraud over Qatar deal
Barclays and former executives charged with fraud by UK regulators in Qatar capital raising case
10:51AM ( 2 days ago )
AP Business - Financial Services
The Latest: Trump hopes for Senate health bill 'with heart'
President Donald Trump is expressing hope that the Senate will pass a health care plan "with heart" following the release of a Republican plan to dismantle President Barack Obama's health law
11:23AM ( 12 minutes ago )
US stock indexes tick higher as oil's dismal week eases
U.S. stock indexes were close to flat in early trading Thursday after the price of oil stabilized, at least for now
11:18AM ( 18 minutes ago )
Trump's tease of possible Comey tapes fits familiar pattern
Whether the tapes exist is a question that President Donald Trump is expected to answer this week, after a buildup of anticipation fueled by Trump himself
11:17AM ( 19 minutes ago )
The Latest: Cindy, now a tropical depression, moving inland
Cindy, now a tropical depression, weakens as it heads inland as heavy rains continue
11:11AM ( 25 minutes ago )
Ron Howard takes helm of Han Solo 'Star Wars' film
Ron Howard will take command of the Han Solo "Star Wars" spinoff after the surprise departure of directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller
11:11AM ( 25 minutes ago )