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Tuesday
Jun062017

Health care on Senate Republicans' Agenda

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- While Senate Republicans insist they are making progress on health care reform, they are not confident that they can meet the summer timeline being put forth by the White House.

Instead, Republicans on Capitol Hill are trying to manage expectations.

“We're getting closer to having a proposal that we'll be bringing up in the near future,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told reporters Tuesday.

Sen. James Lankford (R-Oklahoma) said Republicans have whittled their options down to about “five” different plans. And Senator Roy Blunt, a Republican from Missouri echoed that the discussions are now at the “granular” level.

That said, there are just 18 days until the week-long Fourth of July recess, and 31 days until the five-week-long August recess.

Even if Republicans can hammer out the framework, as Lankford underscored, “once we get that part settled on ... we’re still gonna draft it, get a score, try to go through the process. Does the score work? Does it not work? What do we need changed from it, so we still got a ways to go.”

While Republicans debate, an increasing number of insurers have been pulling out of the market place, including in Ohio on Tuesday. Now, some Republicans are calling for a short-term solution to stabilize the markets.

“What’s Plan B if we can’t get something more comprehensive?” Senator Ron Johnson asked.

“We’re running out of time in terms of stabilizing the markets...you really need to fish or cut bait here on something short term to stabilize the markets," he said.

One of the sticking points is Medicaid expansion.

Senator John Barrasso (R-Wyoming) said the Senate is discussing a “glide path” that gradually turns off the Medicaid expansion spigot, rather than the House bill that abruptly cuts it off. The gradual cutoff in the Senate bill would be sometime “beyond 2020.”

The other sticking point? Pre-existing conditions.

The House bill allows states to get waivers to charge people with preexisting conditions more, but Barrasso suggested that concept isn’t popular in the Senate: “I want to make sure people with preexisting conditions are protected.

The existing bill has already had a turbulent history: The legislation passed the House in early May in a narrow 217-213 vote after weeks of negotiations and internal disagreements between House Republicans. It was the GOP's second attempt at repealing and replacing Obamacare since President Donald Trump came into office -- in late March, the bill, without several amendments added to the second version, failed to make it to the House floor for a vote after it was determined there were not enough votes to pass the bill.

According to an estimate by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, the health care plan as-is would reduce the federal deficit by $119 billion over 10 years and leave 23 million more Americans without health insurance compared with the current law.

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