Bad poll numbers, vote delay & insurer opposition dog Senate healthcare bill
The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) score of the Better Care Reconciliation Act (BCRA), initially expected on Monday, has been delayed without explanation. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) has also announced that a vote on the bill will be delayed due to the absence of Sen. John McCain (R-Arizona), who underwent an emergency surgery to remove a blood clot above his eye.
A new Bloomberg poll shows that 64 percent of Americans disapprove of President Donald Trump’s handling of healthcare. Meanwhile, a Washington Post/ABC News poll showed 50 percent of respondents prefer Obamacare over the 24 percent who back the GOP health plan, and 13 percent favoring neither.
McCain’s absence leaves the GOP without 50 votes in the Senate, as Sens. Rand Paul (R-Kentucky) and Susan Collins (R-Maine) have already declared opposition to the bill. Another eight to 10 Republican senators “have serious concerns,” Collins told CNN on Sunday.
Paul’s objection is that the BCRA does not go far enough in eliminating Obamacare’s mandates, while Collins is worried about the plan to phase out Medicaid expansion, which the BCRA would do over a seven-year period.
Meanwhile, insurers are alarmed by the “Consumer Freedom Option” amendment proposed by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), which would allow cheaper, non-comprehensive plans to be offered alongside the Obamacare-mandated ones. Such an arrangement would result in higher premiums, two major insurance associations have warned.
On Friday, the heads of the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association and America's Health Insurance Plans (AHIP) wrote a letter to McConnell and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-New York), calling the Cruz amendment “unworkable in any form.”
"The Consumer Freedom Option establishes a 'single risk pool' in name only," the letter said, according to CBS News. "In fact, it creates two systems of insurance for healthy and sick people."
"As healthy people move to the less-regulated plans, those with significant medical needs will have no choice but to stay in the comprehensive plans, and premiums with skyrocket," the authors added. "It is simply unworkable in any form and would undermine protections for those with pre-existing medical conditions, increase premiums and lead to widespread terminations of coverage for people currently enrolled in the individual market.”
Blue Cross Blue Shield insures over 100 million Americans. AHIP is a healthcare insurance lobby currently led by Marilyn Tavenner, former director of the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services under the Obama administration.
Democratic promises about Obamacare were “absolute, total lies,” Trump said on Friday in his weekly address, saying that the Senate bill would stop the “disaster,” expand choice and drive down prices.
“We are very, very close to ending this healthcare nightmare,” Trump said.