Republican Senators Release Latest Discussion Draft of Healthcare Reform Bill

Yesterday, Senate Republicans released an updated version of their Better Care Reconciliation Act to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The revised measure includes a proposal by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) that would allow insurers to sell plans with minimal coverage, as long as they also sell policies that meet the essential health benefit requirements set by the ACA. While this addition seems likely to attract conservative support, moderate Republicans argue that it would make policies too expensive for people with serious illnesses because healthy people would purchase the cheaper plans.

The revised bill retains plans to phase out the Medicaid expansion under the ACA, as well as to limit the program’s future growth. Since its inception in 1965, Medicaid has provided open-ended federal funds to help states pay the program’s costs.

The measure would add $70 billion to the $112 billion stability fund that would be used to reimburse insurance companies that end up taking big losses. It also has an added $45 billion for states to combat abuse of opioids and other drugs. The initial bill included just $2 billion, but Republicans from states hit hardest by the opioid crisis insisted that the amount be increased.

To help pay for the added spending, the revised BCRA would retain the ACA taxes on certain high-income earners in order to cover healthcare costs of low-income people. 

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) is expected to release its cost analysis of the new version as soon as July 17, and despite the fact that he may not have enough support from his own party to pass the measure, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) wants to hold a floor vote on the bill next week. He laid out the timing of a health overhaul vote after canceling the first two weeks of the August Congressional recess. We will keep you updated.