The U.S. Senate’s Committee on the Budget unveiled its draft of a health care reform bill on Thursday afternoon.
This follows the U.S House of Representatives’ May vote in favor the American Health Care Act, designed to overhaul the Affordable Health Care Act, more commonly known as Obamacare.
The Senate committee’s move Thursday marks the first time that the majority of Republican senators themselves will get a good look at the committee’s proposal, CNN reports. The bill was drafted behind closed doors, for which it has drawn much scrutiny recently.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell kept the details secret until now so he could win over his colleagues in private, according to CNN. If he loses the votes of more than two Republican senators, the bill will fail to pass.
Failure is a possibility, with NBC News and other outlets reporting that at least three unidentified Republican senators are expected to announce their opposition to the bill.
The Senate is expected to vote on the legislation as early as next week. If it does pass, Republicans’ quest to take a scalpel to Obamacare will be one significant step closer to reality.
How is the Senate’s health care reform bill different?
The New York Times has described the Senate’s version of the reform bill as, “in some respects, more moderate than the House bill, offering more financial assistance to some lower-income people to help them defray the rapidly rising cost of private health insurance.”
Extra Medicaid funding and tax increases established under Obamacare would be slashed, however.
Medicaid is a subsidized insurance program for low-income Americans. As we explained in “6 Hot-Button Issues in the Battle Over the GOP Health Care Plan,” Obamacare expanded the Medicaid program to bring care to more needy adults.
The Senate bill would scale back Medicaid. For example, by the Committee on the Budget’s own summation, in 2021 the proposed legislation would begin “gradual reductions in the amount of federal Obamacare funds provided to expand Medicaid, restoring levels of federal support to preexisting law by 2024 while providing fairness for [states that chose not to expand their Medicaid programs]. …”
The bill would also allow states to require that nonpregnant, nondisabled and nonelderly Medicaid recipients work.
Obamacare increased specific taxes and reduced specific tax breaks to help fund the expanded medical services made available by Obamacare. The Senate bill undoes many of those tax changes as well.
The Committee on the Budget says the bill would “repeal costly Obamacare taxes that contribute to premium increases and hurt life-saving health care innovation …” Taxes that would be repealed include those on:
- Health insurance
- Prescription drugs
- Medical devices
- “High-cost” employer-sponsored plans
The Senate bill also calls for advanceable and refundable tax credits. The New York Times explains:
“The 142-page bill would create a new system of federal tax credits to help people buy health insurance, while offering states the ability to drop many of the benefits required by the Affordable Care Act, like maternity care, emergency services and mental health treatment.”
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