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Senate Health Care Bill Cuts Benefits To The Poorest, Taxes On The Wealthy

Senate Health Care Bill Cuts Benefits To The Poorest, Taxes On The Wealthy

A group of Republican senators, meeting secretly for weeks, finally unveiled on Thursday their version of a health care plan meant to replace the Affordable Care Act enacted by President Barack Obama.

As expected, the 142-page bill — the American Heath Care Act — is similar to the House version passed last month in that it:

  • Makes drastic cuts in Medicaid expansion used by 32 states for the poorest people.
  • Eliminates the current requirement that all Americans must have insurance.
  • Repeals taxes on the wealthy that were imposed by the Affordable Care Act.
  • Lets states drop maternity benefits and mental health coverage mandated by the ACA.

How It Differs From The House Bill

The House version linked federal insurance subsidies to age, while the Senate bill pegs it to income. It also cuts off expanded Medicaid — which covers millions of unemployed people or low-paid workers who can’t afford any health coverage — more gradually.

The Senate bill, spearheaded by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell during weeks of secretive meetings that irritated Democrats and even some GOP lawmakers, would maintain some protections for people with pre-existing conditions.

Because of parliamentary rules aimed at preventing a Democratic filibuster, the Senate was required to keep the costs for the plan at or below the cuts enacted by the House. The House plan would result in the loss of health care benefits to 23 million people, the Congressional Budget Office predicted.

Pressure On GOP To Act Before Summer Recess

The Senate was scrambling to complete at least some portion of its ambitious agenda before breaking for the week of July 4 and the August recess. It needed to complete work on the health care legislation to see how much money was left for plans for a corporate tax overhaul and a $1 trillion infrastructure program.

Despite controlling both chambers of Congress and the Oval Office, the health care legislation is still likely to face a tough fight to get the 51 votes needed for passage (in actuality, the threshold is at 50 votes, as the shoe-in vote of Vice President Mike Pence would bring the total yeas to 51). More moderate Republicans in swing states and arch-conservative lawmakers are divided on key portions.

Washington has also been slowed by the steady hum of a sweeping investigation into President Donald Trump’s ties to the Kremlin and whether his presidential campaign conspired with Russian agents to leak emails damaging to Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton and efforts to hack voting systems in several states.

Before the bill was released, Sen. John McCain (R–Ariz,) said he hadn't seen the legislation at all.

"Nor have I met any American that has," he added, according to Bloomberg. "I'm sure the Russians have been able to hack in and gotten most of it."

Related Link: The Latest On Health Care, Drug Pricing

Image Credit: By Office of the President of the United States [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons


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