Senate Republican leaders are racing to strike a health care deal by Friday that appeases opposing factions of their conference and there appears to be no breakthrough yet in negotiations.
On one hand, there are moderate senators who are critical of the original bill’s Medicaid provisions, who want more funding for opioid treatment, who want pre-existing conditions protected and who want low-income people to have access to affordable insurance.
“My focus is really again on ensuring lower-income citizens actually have the ability to have health plans that really cover the kind of things that need to be covered,” said Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tennessee, who said Republicans are “moving to a place that resolves that issue.”
“I’m not there yet, I know that,” Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-West Virginia, told reporters as she headed to a closed-door Senate Republican Conference lunch. She had been pushing for an increase in opioid treatment funding.
Senate leaders haveto the measure: $45 billion in opioid treatment funding and the ability to use Health Savings Accounts (HSA) to pay for premiums.
Then there are conservatives who have been demanding for a full repeal of Obamacare, which they say the original plan wouldn’t deliver.
“Unless it changes to a repeal bill, I can’t vote for it,” said Sen. Rand Paul, R-Kentucky, whoin order to improve the chances of passage.
One proposal floated by Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas is gaining some traction. It would allow any health insurance company to offer insurance plans that don’t comply with Obamacare in a state if they’re offering at least one that does comply with the health care law.
“I think there’s a lot of appeal to that idea,” Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pennsylvania, said about the plan. “Anybody that likes Obamacare so much, they would have their Obamacare plan and they would also have the freedom to buy anything they like. I think it makes a lot of sense.”
Sen. John Thune, R-South Dakota, a member of Senate leadership, told reporters that Cruz’s plan could potentially be added to the bill as long as it’s structured in a way “that ensures that the pools aren’t adversely affected.”
Some, like Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, are concerned about whether Cruz’s amendment would cover pre-existing conditions. Asked whether he backs the plan, he said, “It hasn’t been fleshed out yet, so — I believe that pre-existing conditions ought to be covered…There are a lot of moving parts.”
Most lawmakers are leaving for their week-long July 4 recess Thursday and leadership has been aiming to reach an agreement on a revised health care bill by Friday in order to send it to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) to have it scored over the break.
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina, warned Thursday that getting a deal by Friday is essential.
“If there’s going to be one, it’ll be by the end of the week. I don’t think that not having a deal and going home is gonna get you a deal,” he said. “I just think the further you get away from this place, the more pushback you’ll get.”
Members of Congress could almost certainly face unhappy constituents in their districts next week. A series of polls released Wednesday found that a majority of the public oppose the bill.
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GOP races to strike health care deal by Friday, before July 4 recess