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McConnell Reveals New Health Bill; Will His GOP Support It?

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Ky. leaves the Senate chamber on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, July 13, 2017.
Associated Press
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Ky. leaves the Senate chamber on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, July 13, 2017.

Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell released his new but still-reeling health care bill Thursday, bidding for conservative support by letting insurers sell low-cost, skimpy policies and reaching for moderates with added billions to combat opioid abuse and help states rein in consumers' skyrocketing insurance costs.

McConnell Reveals New Health Bill; Will His GOP Support It?
McConnell Reveals New Health Bill; Will His GOP Support It? GUEST: Rep. Scott Peters, D-San Diego

Senate Republican leaders have unveiled their latest healthcare proposal today that is still unclear if it has enough support to pass. A group of House Democrats is working on a health care plan. Joining me is Scott Peters of San Diego. Welcome to the program. Thank you. First off can you tell us what is happening to the insurance markets as the debate continues over the repeal of Obamacare? They are becoming destabilize. When markets become destabilized and insurance companies have to raise their prices. What we part of -- proposer a few ideas to do a we can to ease the uncertainty in to make sure that we keep premiums down. Many are working to preserve the affordable care act the way it is, it seems you agree with critics that it does need fixing Russian Mark I ran for office in 2012 and I said it is a huge undertaking and even though it's made tremendous strides. You have to assume that it needs adjustments along the way. What is the three-point plan that are offering? The 33 -- three things is you have to get the young people included. The way that the Obamacare did that was with individual mandate. If way and force that, some people are concerned about the freedoms of the individual mandate. Their other ways we can encourage young people to get in. The first thing is some mandate or some way to get people in it. Second is we have to provide some stability for expensive healthcare cases. The way we would do that is something called reinsurance. It is a way to spread the cost and risks. We did that in 2014 a transitional program that reduced premiums. That is expiring. The third thing is the subsidies that would provide people who can't afford healthcare are subject to annual appropriations and no one else is going to do it so we make sure that would establish a permanent mechanism. Those three things would go a long way to stabilize the market and encourage them to stay in the market. Part of your plan and for help your people could include a basic form of insurance and that sounds like the new Senate plan that also allows bare-bones insurance plans that don't cover most of the things required by the Affordable Care Act. Is a difference between those two ideas? We are not in a position to draw a hard line. In area is that for young people say under 30 one of the things that are going to run them? It could be an accident or serious illness maybe even a pregnancy. So we sent if you want to consider for that age group a cheaper plan that say covers basic primary care and catastrophic injury and then allow insurers to upsell those people if you want vision care. Just to get them in the market it would be worth to have that and provide a different plan for young people and then you transition to a full plan as they got older. That is something that week considered. Are you saying that you would support plans that don't cover maternity care? No I would say that the thing for young people that you really have to make sure that they have is catastrophic coverage. I think maternity care sort of like a part of primary care. I don't think Wii should have a plan that don't cover that in that age group. You can make a flexible plan that's cheaper to get people in the market and keep premiums down. That rings me to my final question. That is in reality since Republicans control all three branches of government how likely is it that this new Democratic proposal or any proposal to gain traction question I think there is two for Republicans. They can see that what they're doing is very unpopular and bad policy and unlikely to result in a positive vote. Or they can stay on their side and watch the problems develop and they will lose elections. I suspect that a lot of officials on the Republican side will behave in a rational way and want to come fix the things that we can agree on. Here are three fixes that every Rob again Democrat can agree and are cost-effective and will help keep premiums down for Americans. I've been speaking with Scott Peters. Thank you very much. Thank you. We contacted Republican representatives for comment on the Senate healthcare bill unveiled today, but they did not respond to our requests.

However, allowing insurers to offer bare-bones plans threatens to alienate moderates and perhaps other conservatives. And the measure retains cuts in Medicaid — the health insurance plan for the poor, disabled and nursing home patients — that moderate Republican senators have fought.

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The 172-page legislation, the Senate GOP's plan for rolling back much of President Barack Obama's health care law, faces a do-or-die vote next week on which McConnell has no margin for error. Since Democrats uniformly oppose the effort, McConnell needs the votes of 50 of the 52 GOP senators to prevail, and two seem certain to vote "no" — conservative Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky and moderate Sen. Susan Collins of Maine.

RELATED: GOP Senate Bill Would Cut Health Care Coverage By 22 Million

Underscoring the measure's dicey prospects, No. 3 Senate Republican leader John Thune of South Dakota said, "We've got a long way ahead of us yet. The floor is going to be a wild place next week."

Seeking to rally support, McConnell, R-Ky., reminded GOP senators that obliterating the 2010 statute has been a central tenet for the party's candidates. "This is our chance to bring about changes we've been talking about since Obamacare was forced on the American people," he said.

But Democrats chose a different word to describe the measure, one which President Donald Trump himself used to describe the House-passed version of the measure despite having applauded it previously.

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RELATED: Delaying August Recess, Senate Republicans To Release Updated Health Care Bill

"The new Republican Trumpcare bill is every bit as mean as the old one," said Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York. He said the provision allowing scanty coverage makes it "even meaner."

Conservative Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, has demanded language letting insurers sell plans with minimal coverage, as long as they also sell policies that meet strict coverage requirements set by Obama's 2010 statute. Moderate Republicans have objected that the idea would make policies excessively costly for people with serious illnesses because healthy people would flock to the cheaper coverage.

Sen. Mike Lee of Utah, who'd partnered with Cruz, tweeted that the version they crafted wasn't put in the bill, adding, "Something based on it has, but I have not seen it or agreed to it."

A summary of the bill said some stripped-down policies would cover three primary care visits per year and limit out-of-pocket costs, and said consumers could use federal tax credits to help pay for them.'

But the Cruz provision appeared in the legislative text in brackets, meaning specific language was still being composed. That could give McConnell, Cruz and other conservatives time to work out a provision with broader support.

The retooled measure retains McConnell's plan to phase out the extra money 31 states have used to expand Medicaid under Obama's statute, and to tightly limit the overall program's future growth. Since its creation in 1965, the program has provided open-ended federal funds to help states pay the program's costs.

The rewritten package would add $70 billion to the $112 billion McConnell originally sought that states could use to help insurers curb the growth of premiums and consumers' other out-of-pocket costs.

It has an added $45 billion for states to combat the misuse of drugs like opioids. That's a boost over the $2 billion in the initial bill and an addition demanded by ok Republicans from states in the Midwest and Northeast that have been ravaged by the drugs.

To help pay for the added spending, the measure would retain three tax increases Obama's law slapped on higher- earning people to help finance his law's expansion of coverage. Under the current statute, families earning more than $250,000 annually got a 3.8 percent boost on their investment income tax and a 0.9 percent increase in their payroll tax. Obama also imposed a new tax on the salaries of high-paid insurance executives.

The measure would eliminate other tax boosts Obama levied on insurers, pharmaceutical producers and other health industry companies.

The revised bill would also allow people to use money from tax-favored health savings accounts to pay health insurance premiums, another favorite proposal of conservatives. McConnell's new bill offered only modest departures from the original version, which he yanked off the Senate floor two weeks ago to avoid certain defeat at the hands of a broad range of unhappy Republicans.

The reworked measure's key elements remain. It would ease Obama's requirements that insurers cover specified services like hospital care, erase Obama's penalties on people who don't buy coverage and make federal health care subsidies be less generous.

Trump said Wednesday he will be "very angry" if the Senate fails to pass the health care measure and said McConnell must "pull it off."

Paul told reporters the revised measure has nothing "remotely resembling repeal." Collins has long complained the measure will toss millions off coverage and objected to its Medicaid cuts.