Two Republican senators on Monday unveiled one of the first ObamaCare replacement bills of the new Congress -- a state-centric plan they admit is imperfect but describe as a tangible start to overhauling the 2010 health care law on a bipartisan basis.
“We recognize that our bill is not perfect,” said Maine Sen. Susan Collins, who introduced the 2017 Patient Freedom Act with Louisiana Sen. Bill Cassidy, a physician and fellow Republican.
“We need comprehensive legislation,” Collins continued. “It’s still a work in progress. ... But if we don’t start putting specific legislation on the table that can be debated, refined, amended and enacted, then we will fail the American people.”
The senators introduced the bill amid a host of pending alternatives from fellow congressional Republicans, including from Georgia Rep. Tom Price, Trump’s pick to run the Department of Health and Human Services, and Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, also a doctor.
Among the highlights of the plan are measures allowing states to continue to offer ObamaCare, urging “price transparency” on medical procedures, keeping existing subsidies and tax credits provided in the 2010 law and extending coverage to 30 million more uninsured Americans.
They said the plan would slow -- or “bend”-- the cost of such a plan to the federal government and allow young adults to stay on their parents’ policies. They suggested their plan would take about three years to be fully implemented.
Cassidy made clear the bill -- particularly the option to stay on ObamaCare -- was created with the intent to win support from Senate Democrats, considering at least eight of them will be needed to join the chamber’s 52 Republicans to vote to pass such legislation.
“We think that gets us to 60,” Cassidy said.
President Trump, like other Washington Republicans, campaigned on promises, if elected, to swiftly repeal and replace ObamaCare.
However, GOP congressional leaders in the weeks following Trump’s White House victory have hit pause, fearing a hasty repeal without a comprehensive replacement plan would leave a projected 20 million Americans uninsured.
Trump and other Republicans now favor simultaneously repealing and replacing former President Obama’s signature health care law -- created to provide coverage for millions of uninsured Americans but struggling under rising premium costs.
“Significant changes are going to have to be made to keep the [insurance] market from going into a tailspin,” Collins said.
She also acknowledged being unsure about the impact of the executive order Trump signed Friday to ease the regulatory burden of ObamaCare.
She called the measure “very confusing” and suggested that the specifics of the repeal and replace process – including “rulemaking" -- will become clearer after a secretary of Health and Human Services is in place.
Cassidy said the joint proposal, like Price’s, includes health savings accounts, which Paul’s also includes.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell -- who vowed to dismantle ObamaCare on “Day One” on the start of the 115th Congress -- told “Fox News Sunday” that congressional Republicans are working with the Trump administration on a repeal-and-replace strategy and that a new plan would still cover people with pre-existing medical conditions.
The Kentucky Republican also said Trump will be able to “undo a lot of it himself” and that eight out of 10 Americans want ObamaCare replaced.
“The status quo is not an option,” he said.