(Bloomberg) — Senate Republicans are getting closer to introducing their plan to change the Affordable Care Act, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Tuesday, though he gave no details and some members said they’re not expecting action on a bill anytime soon.
“We’re getting closer to having a proposal that we’ll be bringing up in the near future,” McConnell of Kentucky told reporters after a closed-door Senate GOP luncheon. “We’ve had seven years to talk about health care,” he said. “We believe we can do better than the status quo.”
Another key Republican also expressed optimism. “I’m very encouraged,” said Republican Sen. Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, who is seen as a pivotal vote. “Of course, it’s not everything I want, but that’s life.”
But Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch of Utah said that while Republicans are talking with the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office on various ideas, “we are not there yet.” Asked when a Senate bill may be introduced, he said, “I doubt it will be real soon.”
President Donald Trump told reporters Tuesday, “I’m sure the Senate will follow through and get a bill across the finish line this summer that will be great health care for Americans.” But Senate GOP members weren’t talking about timetables.
Senate Republicans are seeking consensus on a more modest heath plan than the one passed May 4 by the House as they seek to make a start at keeping their campaign pledge to repeal and replace the 2010 Affordable Care Act. A 13-member working group of Senate Republicans includes lawmakers with varying views.
Senators had said earlier they were weighing a two-step process that would postpone a repeal until 2020, with an initial priority on stabilizing premium costs in the Affordable Care Act public exchange system in 2018 and 2019 and continuing subsidies that help low-income Americans afford individual policies.
Republicans, including John Thune of South Dakota and Susan Collins of Maine, say stabilizing the markets is vital after insurers dropped out of providing individual insurance coverage in Iowa, Missouri, Tennessee and other states.
“I hope it could ride together” with long-term changes to health care system, but Congress may need to make short-term revisions quickly to reassure the markets, Thune said.
Anthem Inc. said Tuesday that it’s dropping individual exchange coverage in Ohio next year, citing a “lack of certainty of funding” for cost-sharing subsidies the government pays insurers to help reduce low-income Americans’ health costs and “an increasing lack of overall predictability” in the market.