Senate releases health care bill, lawmakers push back - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Senate releases health care bill, lawmakers push back

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., joined by, from left, Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., and Majority Whip John Cornyn, R-Texas, speaks following a closed-door strategy session (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite) Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., joined by, from left, Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., and Majority Whip John Cornyn, R-Texas, speaks following a closed-door strategy session (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

It’s been a much-anticipated wait – but Thursday the Senate Republicans released their version of a health care bill aimed to replace the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare).

The Senate’s health care bill aims to cut Medicaid. But, not everyone is happy about the proposed bill, including some Senate Republicans. According to the Associated Press, four GOP senators said they were not in favor and did not support the current proposed bill from the Senate, but they said they were open to negotiating changes. Those Senators are Ted Cruz (R-TX), Ron Johnson (R-Wis), Rand Paul (R-KY), and Mike Lee (R-UT).

Some lawmakers said the version of the bill, which includes reducing tax credits and allowing state waivers, is much like what passed in the House of Representatives.

Congressman Steve Cohen (TN-09) said the bill provides for ‘fatally deep’ cuts to Medicaid and defunds Planned Parenthood.

“Much like the Trumpcare bill passed in the House of Representatives last month, the Republican health care bill in the Senate makes tragically and sometimes fatally deep cuts to Medicaid, allows states to waive critical essential health benefits such as maternity care, mental health services, pediatric services, preventative care services, drug abuse treatment and physical rehabilitation services, gives huge tax breaks to the wealthiest Americans, provides woefully inadequate funding to fight the opioid epidemic, and defunds Planned Parenthood.

The President called the House health care bill ‘mean.’ The Senate version is equally as mean.  Millions of people will likely lose their health insurance and many lower and middle-income Americans will be forced to pay more for less coverage. The Senate version still has a crushing age tax, meaning those 50-64 years of age would pay significantly higher premiums and out-of-pocket expenses. The tax breaks are a Godsend financially for the wealthiest two percent of Americans. 

This bill was hastily crafted behind closed doors with zero input from Democrats, women or minorities. Even members of the so-called health care working group, all of whom are white Republican men, had almost no input in the process. I urge my colleagues in the Senate to oppose this heartless bill and ensure Americans have access to the quality, affordable health insurance they deserve.”       

But many Republicans came to the defense of Trumpcare, including Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn) who cited a list of benefits in the Senate bill.

“To begin with, the draft Senate health care bill makes no change in the law protecting people with pre-existing conditions, no change in Medicare benefits, and increases Medicaid funding— that’s TennCare—at the rate of inflation. Let me repeat: it makes no change in the law protecting people with pre-existing conditions, no change in Medicare benefits, and increases funding for Medicaid—that’s TennCare—at the rate of inflation.”

Alexander continued, “Here are some other benefits for Tennesseans I see in this draft: 

  • Offers health care coverage to 162,000 Tennesseans who make less than $12,000 a year, and under the current law, receive zero help buying insurance.
  • Means the 350,000 Tennesseans who buy their insurance in the individual market – these are Tennesseans who don’t get their insurance on the job or who don’t get it from the government – are more likely to be able to buy insurance next year instead of being in the collapsing Obamacare exchanges where there may be only one option – or even zero options – to buy insurance.
  • Repeals the health insurance tax, which drives up the cost of premiums.
  • Gives the state more flexibility and continues federal cost-sharing, which our state insurance commissioner said will help bring down the cost of premiums.
  • Slows down sky-rocketing premiums, which in Tennessee have gone up 176 percent over four years.
  • Repeals the medical device tax on one of our state’s largest exports.
  • Repeals the employer mandate penalty, which should mean that employers should be able to offer employees more choices of insurance at a lower-cost—and about 60 percent of us get our insurance on the job.
  • Ends the tax on individuals who choose not to buy insurance.
  • Provides more money for hospitals that serve low-income Tennesseans who don’t have insurance.
  • Provides new funding for opioid abuse, and opioid abuse is a rampant epidemic in our state.
  • Provides new Medicaid funding for mental health to double the number of days of in-patient treatment.”

“I’m going to continue to review this draft. I’m going to see what it costs when the Congressional Budget Office gives its report," Alexander said. "Then, I’m going to stay focused on it next week as the bill goes to the Senate floor – where it will be subject to virtually unlimited amendments – and my focus will be on how it affects Tennesseans.”

Lawmakers such as Senator Roger Wicker (R-Miss) praised the bill as a step toward small government.

“In almost every regard, this draft legislation represents another step to move us away from the unworkable aspects of Obamacare and toward a smaller government approach. If enacted, Americans would be far better off than they are under the failing Obamacare status quo. I am confident that we will have an opportunity to make additional improvements to this proposal, addressing both the astronomical increases in health insurance premiums and the lack of choices in the market," said Wicker.

The Senate’s health care bill has been under attack since many lawmakers said the bill was created between a select few of the senators and was not made public until Thursday.

The House of Representatives approved its health care bill last month, but both houses will need to pass the same version of a health care bill before it heads to President Donald Trump for a signature.

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