Senate Republicans on Thursday unveiled a draft version of their healthcare reform bill that cuts Medicaid, ends penalties for people not buying insurance and reshapes subsidies to low-income users.
The bill, unveiled by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, could go to a vote as early as next week. Senate Republicans made the proposal public in a bid to stem criticism that they have been slow to respond to a House version of an ObamaCare overhaul.
“More Americans are going to get hurt if we do nothing,” McConnell said from the Senate floor.
“More Americans are going to get hurt if we do nothing.”
The 142-page draft of the bill, which also prohibits states from opting out of key protections for patients with preexisting conditions, eliminates much of former President Obama’s signature health care legislation.
The measure would repeal tax increases Obama’s law imposed on higher-income people and medical industry companies to pay for expanded coverage. And it would end the tax penalty Obama’s statute imposes on people who don’t buy insurance — in effect, ending the so-called individual mandate.
The legislation would face a potential reconciliation battle with House Republicans, who passed their own ObamaCare overhaul in May by a narrow, 217-213 vote.
Some Republican senators immediately rejected the House version, saying they might use parts of it but would largely start fresh.
“To the extent that the House solves problems, we might borrow ideas,” said Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., on May 4. “We can go to conference with the House, or they can pass our bill.”
The latest proposal also faces uniform opposition from Senate Democrats.
“The bill Republicans announced today is even worse than expected and by far the most harmful piece of legislation I have seen in my lifetime,” Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders said in a statement. “This bill has nothing to do with health care. It has everything to do with an enormous transfer of wealth from working people to the richest Americans.”
At a separate event Thursday, Vice President Mike Pence, who worked closely with Senate lawmakers on the proposal, touted its merits.
“I want to assure you, before summer’s out, President Trump is going to keep his promise to the American people and we’re going to repeal and replace ObamaCare,” Pence said.
Pence and several Republican lawmakers have been accused of drafting the Senate health care bill in secrecy. In 2009-2010 when ObamaCare was up for a vote, Pence, then a representative from Indiana, took Democrats to task for the very same thing.
“It’s simply wrong for legislation that will affect 100 percent of the American people to be negotiated behind closed doors,” Pence tweeted on Jan. 13, 2010.