(Bloomberg) — Republican senators plan to write a health care bill that could be radically different from the one passed last week by the House, including keeping some of the benefits and safeguards currently enshrined within the Affordable Care Act.
The Senate’s different approach means there’s no clear timetable for producing a bill, and it likely ensures that President Donald Trump and House Republicans will eventually have to face legislation that doesn’t fully repeal the ACA despite their repeated campaign promises to do it.
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“The Senate is starting from scratch,” Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine said during an interview on ABC’s “This Week” on Sunday. “We’re going to draft our own bill, and I’m convinced that we’re going to take the time to do it right.”
Trump on Sunday jawboned his party’s lawmakers, saying on Twitter that “Republican Senators will not let the American people down!”
Collins, who ranks among the most moderate of Republican senators, and Sen. Bill Cassidy of Louisiana said one of their top goals is to ensure that people with pre-existing medical conditions continue to have the same or better coverage.
The pair have introduced a bill, the Patient Freedom Act, that keeps some of the consumer protections within the ACA for people with pre-existing conditions while seeking to solve some of the flaws within the health care law.
While H.R. 1628, which passed by a razor-thin margin on May 4, requires states to offer coverage for people with pre-existing conditions, that coverage might not be affordable, Collins said. “So much discretion is given to the states without any guardrails,” she said.
Patients Over Party
Cassidy said on Fox News Channel’s “Sunday Morning Futures” that he hopes a bill could be sent to Trump by the fall.
“This is not a Democratic issue; it’s not a Republican issue,” said Cassidy, a physician. “Hopefully, patients will take the precedence over party.”
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Sen. Roy Blunt of Missouri, who’s part of the Republican leadership team, said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” that the goal for the Senate should be a bill that brings people into the health care system who aren’t now in it, “to give people more choices, to create more competition.”
Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va. (Photo: Manchin)