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CBO to release crucial report on Senate Obamacare replacement bill

By dailymail / Published on Monday, 26 Jun 2017 18:35 PM / No Comments

The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office will release an assessment of the Senate Obamacare replacement bill Monday, as Republican Senate leaders walk a thin line in trying to win the votes needed to pass their plan.

The CBO’s estimate of the plan’s effect on the number of uninsured Americans could influence whether Republican senators support it.

Senate Republicans last week released a draft of their secretive Obamacare replacement bill, called the “Better Care Reconciliation Act of 2017.” The plan would repeal Obamacare taxes, restructure subsidies to insurance customers that are based on their incomes and phase out Medicaid’s expansion program. It contains some key differences from the version the House passed last month.

Shortly before the CBO was set to release the score, Senate Republicans released a revised version that appears aimed to deter younger, healthier people from dropping insurance. The updated bill would impose a six-month waiting period on individuals who buy insurance but let their coverage lapse for more than 63 days in the prior year. That provision would start in 2019.

The CBO estimated the House plan would lead to 23 million fewer Americans insured in 2026 if it became law. Most of that change would come through the rollback of Obamacare’s expansion of Medicaid, which primarily covers the poor. The report also projected that health-care costs would spike for older, poorer Americans under the House proposal.

Before the CBO released the score for the Senate plan, five GOP senators said they will not back it in its current form. Four conservative senators — Rand Paul of Kentucky, Ted Cruz of Texas, Mike Lee of Utah and Ron Johnson of Wisconsin — argue it does not go far enough to dismantle the Affordable Care Act.

On the GOP’s so-called moderate wing, Sen. Dean Heller of Nevada has opposed the bill as written, slamming its rollback of Medicaid expansion. Heller is up for re-election next year in Nevada, a state where Medicaid expansion provided coverage to about 210,000 people, according to its Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval.

Republicans, who control 52 seats in the Senate, can only lose two votes to pass the plan. They face difficulties in winning over skeptical senators, as tweaks to appease conservatives could alienate moderates, or vice versa.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell aims for a vote this week, but it is not clear if he can rally the support needed to do so.

House Republicans barely managed to muster enough votes with a series of last-minute amendments before the chamber passed its highly criticized Obamacare replacement plan last month. That chamber, too, faced opposition from both conservative and moderate pockets.

— CNBC’s Dan Mangan contributed to this report