Senate GOP releases bill to cut Medicaid, alter ‘Obamacare’

Mitch McConnell, John Cornyn, John Barrasso, John Thune
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., joined by, from left, Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., and Majority Whip John Cornyn, R-Texas, speaks following a closed-door strategy session, at the Capitol in Washington, Tuesday, June 20, 2017. Sen. McConnell says Republicans will have a "discussion draft" of a GOP-only bill scuttling former President Barack Obama's health care law by Thursday. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

WASHINGTON (AP) — Senate Republicans released their long-awaited bill Thursday to dismantle much of Barack Obama’s health care law, proposing to cut Medicaid for low-income Americans and erase tax boosts that Obama imposed on high-earners and medical companies to finance his expansion of coverage.

The bill would provide tax credits to help people buy insurance. It would also let states get waivers to ignore some coverage standards that “Obamacare” requires of insurers.

The measure represents the Senate GOP’s effort to achieve a top tier priority for President Donald Trump and virtually all Republican members of Congress. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., hopes to push it through his chamber next week.

Yet it faces an uncertain fate in the Senate.

At least a half-dozen GOP senators — conservatives as well as moderates — have complained about the proposal, the secrecy with which McConnell drafted it and the speed with which he’d like to whisk it to passage. Facing unanimous Democratic opposition, the bill would fail if just three of the Senate’s 52 GOP senators oppose it.

The measure would provide $50 billion over the next four years that states could use in an effort to shore up insurance markets around the country.

For the next two years, it would also provide money that insurers use to help lower out-of-pocket costs for millions of lower income people. Trump has been threatening to discontinue those payments, and some insurance companies have cited uncertainty over those funds as reasons why they are abandoning some markets and boosting premiums.

The House approved its version of the bill last month. Though he lauded its passage in a Rose Garden ceremony, Trump last week privately called the House measure “mean” and called on senators to make their version more “generous.”

Democrats say GOP characterizations of Obama’s law as failing are wrong and say the Republican plan would boot millions off coverage and leave others facing higher out-of-pocket costs.

The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office said the House bill would cause 23 million people to lose coverage by 2026. The budget office’s analysis of the Senate measure is expected in the next few days.

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