Senate Republicans Plan Initial Vote on Health Care Bill

U.S. Senate Republicans plan to make another push this week toward their goal of repealing and replacing the health care law put in place under former President Barack Obama.

During the past month, the Senate has seen two versions of health care bills, one that would both repeal and replace the program commonly known as Obamacare and another that would start a two-year clock on repealing it in order to give lawmakers time to figure out a replacement. 

Both bills faced total opposition from Democrats and enough resistance from Republicans that neither has gone far in the legislative process.

Senator John Thune, one of 52 Republicans in the 100-member Senate, said Sunday that Majority Leader Mitch McConnell will hold a procedural vote sometime this week on a health care bill that would open up the measure to debate and amendments.

What is not clear is which bill will be subjected to a vote.  The House of Representatives passed its own repeal-and-replace legislation in May.

“We don’t know whether we’re going to be voting on the House bill, the first version of the Senate bill, the second version of the Senate bill, a new version of the Senate bill, or a 2015 bill that would have repealed the Affordable Care Act,” said Republican Senator Susan Collins.

As the Senate prepares for a vote, the White House says President Donald Trump will give a statement on health care Monday after holding the latest of his administration’s meetings with what it calls “victims of Obamacare.”

Trump also used Twitter late Sunday to continue publicly pressuring Republicans in Congress to meet his campaign promise of revamping the health care system that critics say is too expensive and unfairly requires Americans to have health insurance or else pay a fine.

“If Republicans don’t Repeal and Replace the disastrous ObamaCare, the repercussions will be far greater than any of them understand!” the president wrote.

Democrats were in control of Congress when the ACA passed in 2010, without a single Republican vote, and celebrated it as a program that helped millions of people gain insurance, while putting place policies such as preventing denials based on pre-existing conditions and requiring insurance companies to include certain services in their plans.

During Obama’s remaining years in office, Republicans brought forth multiple bills aimed at killing the program, but those would have required Obama to sign off on ending his own initiative.  He told members of Congress that if they sent him something that improved the ACA or the health system, then he would support it.

Republicans who oppose the current overhaul bills include those who say the measures do not go far enough to roll back the current law, while others say the proposed changes go too far in curbing insurance coverage under Medicaid, the government’s health care program for impoverished people.

The Congressional Budget Office said if Obamacare is repealed without a replacement, 17 million Americans would lose their health insurance next year and 32 million by 2026.  Under a Senate Republican repeal-and-replace proposal, the CBO said 22 million would lose their coverage in the next decade, but the plan would save the government $420 billion.

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