Uncertainty Surrounds Senate Obamacare Repeal Plan


Senators may not know what kinds of changes they can make to the House Obamacare repeal bills for another two weeks, when an official cost estimate for the legislation is made public.

The Congressional Budget Office expects to release a cost estimate for the House-passed American Health Care Act (H.R. 1628) the week of May 22, the nonpartisan group announced recently.

Until lawmakers know the full costs of the legislation, they can't make substantial changes to it. The Senate version of the bill must cut the federal deficit to the same extent as the House bill in order to qualify for the budget reconciliation process that allows bills to pass with a simple majority, senators told reporters recently.

Any new money for suggested changes, such as expanded tax credits for the poorest Americans and support for states that expanded their Medicaid programs under the Affordable Care Act, would have to be paid for by new revenue or cuts elsewhere.

“It’s obviously a further constraint on us,” Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wisc.) said.

The version of the AHCA first considered by the House in March was projected to reduce federal deficits by $337 billion over 10 years, according to a Congressional Budget Office analysis. The House made several changes to the legislation before passing it, cutting the potential deficit reduction by at least $8 billion.

Several Republican senators mentioned a “softer landing” for ending Medicaid expansion funding compared with the House bill, either extending how long the federal government supports expansion states or adding funds for high-risk pools or higher tax credits to support people who lose Medicaid coverage. Either way, the Senate bill must achieve the same savings as the House bill, which looks to cut $880 billion in future Medicaid spending.

Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) told reporters he wants to increase tax credits for some of the poorest Americans, to offer additional support for people who might lose Medicaid coverage if the ACA is repealed.

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