GOP Sweetens Obamacare Repeal Bill to Woo Key Votes

MONDAY, Sept. 25, 2017 (HealthDay News) -- Senate GOP leaders have added language to their Obamacare repeal bill that would shift money to states such as Alaska and Maine in an apparent attempt to sway Republican holdouts.

A summary of the revised version also projects increases in federal Medicaid funding for Arizona and Maine, compared with prior estimates.

The changes, unveiled Sunday, come in the wake of Arizona Sen. John McCain's announcement Friday that he could not support the so-called Graham-Cassidy bill, which would turn money from the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, into a state block-grant program.

McCain joined Kentucky's Sen. Rand Paul, who previously expressed opposition to the bill because it does not fully repeal Obamacare.

Republicans are facing a Sept. 30 deadline to pass a repeal bill by a simple majority. So far, they appear not to have even the minimum number of votes needed.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), one of the key holdouts, remained undecided as of Friday.

Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) is also a likely no. In a Sunday morning interview on CNN's "State of the Union," Collins said it is "very difficult for me to envision a scenario where I would end up voting for this bill. I have a number of serious reservations about it."

President Donald Trump amped up the pressure Sunday on reluctant Republican senators, calling Alaska, Arizona, Maine and Kentucky "big winners" under the GOP plan.

"7 years of Repeal & Replace and some Senators are not there," he tweeted, alluding to the party's repeated promises to repeal the Affordable Care Act since its 2010 enactment.

The revised bill -- sponsored by Sens. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, Dean Heller of Nevada and Ron Johnson of Wisconsin -- would give states more decision-making authority on how to allocate health care dollars.

The revised bill also includes new language addressing concerns about how Americans with pre-existing conditions would fare. It now indicates that states "shall maintain access to adequate and affordable health insurance coverage for individuals with pre-existing conditions."

However, opponents of the measure -- including major insurance organizations, health provider groups and consumer advocates -- say the proposed legislation guts Medicaid, the government-run insurance program for the poor, and threatens key consumer protections.

"I think ultimately the flexibility that's being offered to states here is the flexibility to make politically painful choices about what to cut, where to cut, who to cut, and how deeply," said Sabrina Corlette, research professor at the Georgetown University Center on Health Insurance Reforms.

The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office is expected to publish a preliminary analysis of the Republican measure early this week. But GOP leaders are pressing for a vote ahead of a broader CBO analysis of the bill's impact on costs and coverage.

More information

You can read more about the Republican proposal by clicking here.


SOURCES: Sept. 22, 2017, media teleconference with Sabrina Corlette, research professor, Georgetown University Center on Health Insurance Reforms; Sept. 24, 2017, Twitter, @realDonaldTrump; Sept. 18, 2017, blog, Congressional Budget Office; Office of Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.)

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