As the Senate continues to work on its health care bill, the legislation continues to move further and further away from full repeal of ObamaCare and the fundamental goal of the freedom for all Americans to choose their doctors, care, and methods of insuring themselves.
Whether it’s reinstating some of the ObamaCare taxes, further delaying the repeal of Medicaid’s enhanced federal match rate, or total aversion to states being able to regulate their insurance markets outside of the ObamaCare framework, the Senate debate is shaping up to be more moving around of the proverbial deck chairs.
Congress should be fully repealing ObamaCare. Short of that, they should at minimum repeal ObamaCare’s onerous regulatory architecture responsible for causing such financial disruption for patients and providers.
However, there is a significant concern materializing in the context of this debate that will be front and center very soon. That’s the potential for Senate leadership to attempt to bail out insurers in the name of “stabilizing” the ObamaCare exchanges.
Far too little attention has been paid to statements by some senior lawmakers to prop up insurers utilizing billions in taxpayer funds. While the Senate bill already includes a new and highly problematic $112 billion stability slush fund, the unconstitutional cost-sharing reductions (CSRs) are increasingly being touted as essential for “stabilizing” the ObamaCare exchanges.
President Donald Trump is ramping up his outreach to Senate Republicans as their Obamacare repeal effort hangs in the balance, dialing up an undecided conservative senator over the weekend and inviting several other key GOP senators to the White House for a private meeting Monday night.
White House press secretary Sean Spicer said Monday that Trump plans to host some Republicans to discuss the repeal push. Spicer didn’t disclose the invite list, but Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn of Texas, Sens. John Thune of South Dakota, Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, Roy Blunt of Missouri, Steve Daines of Montana and James Lankford of Oklahoma are among the senators who will attend, according to Republican aides.
But even more conspicuous is the list of senators who aren’t going to the White House on Monday evening. Aides to key swing-vote Republicans including Rob Portman of Ohio, Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia, Jeff Flake of Arizona, Cory Gardner of Colorado and Ron Johnson of Wisconsin said they were not attending.
“This was set up when we thought we were going to be voting this week,” Cornyn said of the White House sit-down. “So it’s the president’s invitation, and we’re accepting his invitation.”
Cornyn acknowledged that the guests included few if any of the GOP swing votes Trump still must corral to help pass the repeal bill: “It’s kind of an interesting invitation list, but again — I didn’t craft it.”
Senator John McCain’s absence could jeopardize the Senate healthcare bill’s chances of passing through the upper chamber.
Senator John McCain’s convalescence from his recent surgery has delayed the Senate healthcare bill’s vote for this week. The bill, known as the Better Care Reconciliation Act (BCRA), was slated for a vote this week. The Senate leadership promises that the chamber will vote on the measure as soon as he recovers.
Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX), a member of Senate leadership, said, “I believe as soon as we have a full contingent of senators, that we’ll have that vote.”
House conservative leaders worry they’ll be forced to vote to advance a vehicle for a tax-code rewrite without knowing details of the plan, setting up a repeat of Congress’s troubled efforts on health-care legislation.
With a committee markup of a key budget resolution scheduled for Wednesday, leaders of the conservative House Freedom Caucus have demanded details about the tax package and about welfare-spending cuts that GOP leaders have agreed to in principle. But they’ve received no guarantees, and the prospects for seeing specifics ahead of a budget vote appear to be diminishing.
For Representative Jim Jordan, a co-founder of the caucus that claims 30 or so members, that’s too reminiscent of the way GOP leaders handled health care, legislation that remains up in the air seven months after Congress adopted a detail-free budget measure to kick off the process.
“The way we look at it is — look what happened in January,” Jordan said. “We went along with a budget thinking we were going to do a repeal bill and a separate replacement legislation for Obamacare and instead we get this seven-month ordeal we’re still going through. We don’t want to make the same mistake twice.”
Senate Republican leaders delayed a vote on the health-care bill that was planned for this week because Senator John McCain of Arizona is recovering from surgery. The legislation’s prospects remain uncertain. On taxes, top House and Senate leaders have been meeting privately to hammer out proposals with Trump administration officials. The White House says it hopes to release a unified Republican plan by early September, but no details have emerged from the closed-door sessions.