Mitch McConnell and his tiny cabal of fellow senators are finally ready to unveil their plan to take away health insurance from millions of people. The official presentation of the new bill will happen tomorrow morning but some outlets received a preview of what it contains on Wednesday. It sounds ever so slightly less “mean” than the House bill.
Senators will reportedly receive their own copies of the bill around 9:30 AM on Thursday, and it will be released to the public sometime later. A score from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) isn’t expected until Friday or Monday. That score is the most important factor for understanding what the bill contains. These plans are complicated and filled with obscure jargon. But we do have a CBO score for the American Health Care Act that the House passed in May. That report found that 23 million people would be left without insurance and quality of care would decline. The Senate’s bill makes some changes but The Washington Post’s assessment is that it “largely mirrors the House measure .”
Opponents of the House bill have painted it as a tax giveaway to the rich and it appears that the new bill will face the same criticism. Obamacare (ACA) included taxes on health insurance companies, pharmaceuticals, and medical devices. You can thank the lobbyists working for the corporations in that field for the inflamed GOP rhetoric that followed the ACA’s enactment. It also includes a 3.8 percent tax on the wealthy. All outlets that have received information on the contents of the Senate’s bill say that those taxes are expected to be killed. But what’s not set in stone is how soon they’ll go. The Senate is working on a gradual rollback.
The individual mandate and the employer mandate are also expected to be completely eliminated. And a new waiver program is expected that will make it easier for states to simply not participate. With the elimination of taxes, mandates, and new wavers, funding any sort of significant healthcare program will be difficult to say the least. Republican’s always say that a magical trickle down effect will occur in the marketplace to take care of whatever shortcomings exist in their plans. The CBO does not share their optimism.
Another key difference between the House and Senate’s plan is that the new bill will delay cuts to Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion provisions. The program covers more than 70 million low-income Americans. The Senate bill is expected to make deeper cuts into the program but they won’t kick in until 2025, easing the worries of Senators having to face their constituents on the issue any time soon. Federal subsidies will also be pegged to income rather than age, which was the guideline in the House proposal.
And of course, it wouldn’t be Republican legislation if it didn’t attack women. Federal funding for Planned Parenthood would be eliminated. But that’s likely to just be a negotiating tactic for dealing with Democrats and moderates. In the same way that the GOP always threatens to kill the National Endowment for the Arts, Planned Parenthood is a favorite candidate for the chopping block when they want something.
The one good piece of good news is that protections for people with preexisting conditions are said to be in the new bill.
We’ll know more tomorrow morning. Or as Senator Lindsay Graham told NBC News, “We’ll know if it’s a boy or girl tomorrow about 9:30.” Graham failed to mention a third option: stillborn.