Changes Still Ahead for Senate Health Bill


Nearly a dozen Republicans are readying amendments to the Obamacare overhaul bill GOP leaders plan to bring to a floor vote next week, lawmakers told reporters recently.

The amendments will run the gamut from complex changes proposed by Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Bill Cassidy (R-La.), which would drastically alter how millions of Americans receive health insurance, to one by Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) that would allow doctors to write off charity care. Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) said he's planning to introduce “all kinds of amendments.”

Asked whether Republicans should make last-minute changes to a bill with such far-reaching effects as the health bill, Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) told reporters there are no other opportunities for changes if the legislation reaches the Senate floor next week.

“It's the best available place to make health-care policy,” he said.

Lawmakers are expected to offer amendments that would change the growth rate for Medicaid and add new funds to stabilize local insurance markets, according to aides familiar with the discussions. Senate leadership is likely to use the amendment process to drum up last-minute support for the health bill.

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) declared he’s going to file amendments to protect his state’s expanded Medicaid population.

“This legislation should reward states like Arizona that are responsibly managing their health care services and controlling costs—not penalize them,” he said in a statement.

Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) told Bloomberg BNA she's working with fellow Republicans on amendments but declined to outline them. Sens. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Rob Portman (R-Ohio) are also slated to offer amendments, according to a health-care lobbyist who asked not to be named.

Additionally, Democrats are planning to offer dozens of amendments meant to force Republicans to make unpopular votes, as they did when an Obamacare-replacement bill passed the House earlier this year.

The process Republicans are using to pass their health bill allows nearly unlimited amendments to be offered before the legislation reaches the Senate floor for a vote.

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