The Senate’s new Better Care Reconciliation Act bill might fail, but it could still pass.
Republicans hold just 52 seats in the Senate. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is struggling to get more conservative and more moderate Republicans to unite behind the version of the Affordable Care Act change bill released Thursday. At press time, at least eight Republican senators were publicly expressing skepticism about the idea of voting for the bill.
In the past, however, backers of other health bills have faced similar problems with rounding up votes and triumphed.
In 2009 and 2010, when the Democrats were working on the bills that created the Affordable Care Act, they had trouble with getting the most liberal Democrats and the most moderate Democrats to vote for the same bill.
In May, when House Speaker Paul Ryan brought the House ACA change bill, the American Health Care Act bill, to the House floor, no one knew what would happen. House members ended up passing it by a 217-213 vote.
Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, told Bloomberg today that he’s confident the Better Care Reconciliation Act bill will attract enough Republican votes to get through the Senate.
The 142-page Better Care draft is written in a dense, confusing way, with many key provisions that would change the laws now in force by adding sentence fragments, deleting several words, or adding or deleting punctuation marks. The draft does not always explain what effect those changes are supposed to have.
Perhaps as a result, commentary on specific provisions in the draft has been scarce.
Here’s a look at five of the more focused reactions that came out yesterday and today.
1. Insurers have mixed feelings.
America’s Health Insurance Plans, a group for health insurers, is not taking an official position on the draft. It told Bloomberg that it likes the commercial insurance subsidies in the draft but has concerns about provisions that would phase in dramatic cuts in Medicaid funding.
The Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association is also praising the subsidy provisions, but it says the Senate needs to add strong incentives for people to keep themselves covered.
2. Experts think a state Affordable Care Act waiver program expansion program provision could be powerful.
The Patient Protection and Affordable Care, part of the ACA, already includes a Section 1332 waiver program provision. A state can use that provision to tinker with how its exchange program works, and with other ACA rules.
The Senate Better Care draft would let a state use Section 1332 to change many different ACA rules. The draft makes understanding which rules the draft could actually change difficult. The draft states that a state could ask to change the rules described in one paragraph in PPACA Section 1332. That paragraph in PPACA Section 1332 refers, in turn, to six major sections of PPACA. Some of those six sections may, in turn, refer to additional sections.
Joseph Antos and James C. Capretta of the American Enterprise Institute write in a blog on the website of Health Affairs, an academic journal, that they think a state could use a Better Care Section 1332 waiver to change its essential health benefits package, or standard benefits package, but not to bring back medical underwriting.
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