WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colorado, strongly opposes the Senate’s health care proposal, and his Republican counterpart, Sen. Cory Gardner, said he is carefully reading the bill before making up his mind.
The Senate’s response to the House health care bill, Better Care Reconciliation Act, was revealed Thursday amid tense anticipation at the Capitol. It was crafted in secret by top Senate Republicans and comes after seven years of promising to repeal the Affordable Care Act.
While the bill keeps some aspects of Obamacare intact, such as the pre-existing conditions policy and dependent coverage until age 26, there are deep cuts and changes to much of the program.
The Senate proposal also would phase out the Medicaid expansion by 2021. The Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare, had increased the number of people eligible for government support. The reduction would decrease Medicaid spending by $800 billion over 10 years.
The draft would repeal aspects such as subsidies for out-of-pocket costs, individual and employer mandates, funding for Planned Parenthood for a year and taxes imposed to pay for coverage expansions.
For the bill to pass, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, can lose only two Republicans votes before Vice President Mike Pence could break a 50-50 tie. Five Republicans have voiced opposition.
Democrats, including Bennet, have adamantly spoken out against the draft. Bennet said they couldn’t design a bill less responsive to what opponents of Obamacare want and compares the Senate draft to the bill that passed the House in May.
“Coloradans want us to fix and improve our health care system,” Bennet said. “The Senate proposal is just as bad, if not worse, than that legislation because it decreases coverage and increases costs instead of expanding quality and affordable health care.
Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper announced the Senate proposal would take the state backward, and he echoed Bennet’s remarks on its deep cuts.
“It’s no surprise that a bill drafted in secret, without public hearings and scrutiny, and planned for a rushed vote within days, will hurt Coloradans,” Hickenlooper said. “We urge Senators Gardner and Bennet to vote no on this flawed bill.”
Bennet also took a jab at the selected Republicans who crafted the bill behind closed doors.
“Instead of writing a bill in secret and rushing to pass it before an arbitrary deadline, we should work in a bipartisan and transparent way to provide more predictability, affordability and transparency to give Coloradans the health care system they deserve,” Bennet said in a news release.
Gardner said in a statement that Thursday’s unveiling was the first he had seen of the legislation, and he wants his colleagues to read the 142-page bill carefully, as he is.
“It’s frustrating that instead of actually reviewing the legislative text some have decided to immediately oppose the bill before it was even introduced,” Gardner said. “This deserves serious debate, not knee-jerk reaction.”
President Donald Trump expressed his support of the bill. Trump made promises during the campaign that he would push hard to repeal the Affordable Care Act.
“I am very supportive of the Senate #HealthcareBill. Look forward to making it really special! Remember, ObamaCare is dead,” Trump tweeted.
The bill would have to go back to the House if it passes the Senate. Liz Payne, spokeswoman for Rep. Scott Tipton, R-Cortez, said he anticipates there may be some changes before it comes back to the House for consideration.
“His priority has and will continue to be to make health care affordable and accessible for Coloradans,” Payne said in an email.
Josephine Peterson is a reporting intern for The Durango Herald in Washington, D.C., and a recent graduate of American University. Reach her at email@example.com and follow her on Twitter @jopeterson93