July 7, 2017

McConnell: If Senate bill fails, we'll need bill to strengthen individual market

Daily Briefing

The Senate is unlikely to vote next week on the Senate GOP's health reform bill, and some Republican senators say they have yet to reach a consensus on the legislation.

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Background: Sens. consider BCRA changes while in recess

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) had hoped to reach a consensus on changes to the Better Care Reconciliation Act (BCRA) before Congress' July 4 recess in hopes of holding a vote shortly after lawmakers reconvene on July 10. However, Republican senators have suggested they are still at odds over the bill.

Still, Senate Republicans have asked CBO to score an amendment, proposed by GOP Sens. Ted Cruz (Texas) and Mike Lee (Ariz.), that would allow insurers that offer at least one health plan that complies with all of the Affordable Care Act's (ACA) rules—including its essential health benefits requirements and its provision barring insurers from charging individuals with pre-existing conditions more for coverage—to also sell lower-cost plans that do not meet the ACA's requirements.

Sens. say health reform vote is weeks away

According to Politico, a White House official said the Senate would not hold a vote on its health reform bill next week.

Cruz and Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) on Wednesday separately said they think the Senate is "several weeks" away from voting on a health reform bill.

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) on Thursday said, "There's a lot of moving pieces. My sense is the week of the 17th is when we start moving on it."

Don Stewart, a spokesperson for McConnell, said a schedule for when the Senate will consider a health reform measure has not yet been announced.

McConnell: Congress will have to stabilize health insurance market if BCRA is not approved

Meanwhile, McConnell on Thursday said Congress would need to pass narrower legislation to help stabilize the private health insurance market if Senate Republicans cannot pass their health reform legislation, The Hill reports.

According to the Associated Press, McConnell during a Rotary Club luncheon in Kentucky said, "If my side is unable to agree on an adequate replacement, then some kind of action with regard to the private health insurance market must occur." He continued, "No action is not an alternative. ... We've got the insurance markets imploding all over the country, including in this state."

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) praised McConnell's comments for "open[ing] the door to bipartisan solutions," adding, "It's encouraging that [McConnell] today acknowledged that the issues with the exchanges are fixable." Schumer continued, "As we've said time and time again, Democrats are eager to work with Republicans to stabilize the markets and improve the [ACA]" (Everett/Dawsey, Politico, 7/6; Sullivan, The Hill, 7/6; Carney, The Hill, 7/6; Schreiner/Fram, AP/KIRO7, 7/6).

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