Senate Republicans are expected to vote Wednesday on a so-called “skinny” bill to repeal, but not replace, the Affordable Care Act (ACA), leaving millions without health insurance and lifting premiums by an estimated average of $1,238.
A copy of the bill circulating Wednesday would strip Planned Parenthood of Medicaid funds—with a new twist. The Senate bill prohibits Medicaid dollars from going to abortion providers that received more than $1 million in Medicaid reimbursements in fiscal year 2014. An earlier bill showed a dollar amount of $350 million.
It was unclear if Senate leadership changed the dollar figure in an attempt to skirt a Senate rule that nixed their plans to defund Planned Parenthood through the budget reconciliation process. Health policy advocates called the dollar change politically motivated.
“There is no evidence that simply changing the Medicaid reimbursement threshold would sweep in any new providers, and it doesn’t change the fact that the provision itself is rooted in advancing a politically motivated social agenda — the same reason why abortion policy provisions have always been determined to violate the Byrd Rule,” a health-care policy advocate told Rewire.
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The Senate’s parliamentarian said last week that provisions like defunding Planned Parenthood violate the Byrd Rule and need at least 60 votes to pass.
The GOP bill includes eliminating tax credits to small employers with health-care plans that cover abortion care.
Wednesday’s vote represents Republicans’ latest attempt to strip vulnerable and low-income people of health-care coverage now that they control Congress and the White House.
Late Tuesday, Senate Republicans’ proposal to “repeal and replace” the ACA, or Obamacare, died by a wide margin. The “Better Care Reconciliation Act” would have dropped 15 million people from Medicaid and left nearly 50 million uninsured, according to the Congressional Budget Office, a nonpartisan legislative scorekeeper.
Nine Republicans rejected the measure, dooming its passage. Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), who took to the Senate floor Tuesday to rail against partisan discord, had claimed he would “not vote for the bill,” but reversed course and did that very thing.
Early in the day, protesters disrupted the vote, with chants of “Kill the bill, don’t kill us!” and “Shame!” that could be heard in the Senate chambers.
Polls indicate the U.S. public greatly prefers Obamacare to various Republican alternatives that would take away health-care coverage from tens of millions.
Congressional Republicans have had seven years to come up with an alternative to Obamacare, but until now their legislation was consistently vetoed by former President Obama. Now, with President Trump tweeting he has his “pen in hand” ready to sign GOP legislation, Republicans are challenged to arrive at a consensus.
Even if the Senate manages to pass some form of Trumpcare, it would need approval by the House to become law.