Con­di­tional bid on care put forth

Se­nate leader hints at budg­ing

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - NEWS - COM­PILED BY DEMO­CRAT-GAZETTE STAFF FROM WIRE RE­PORTS

GLAS­GOW, Ky. — Se­nate Ma­jor­ity Leader Mitch McConnell says he plans to pro­duce a fresh bill in about a week scut­tling and re­plac­ing much of for­mer Pres­i­dent Barack Obama’s health care law. But he also ac­knowl­edged a Plan B if that ef­fort con­tin­ues to floun­der.

“If my side is un­able to agree on an ad­e­quate re­place­ment, then some kind of ac­tion with re­gard to the pri­vate health in­sur­ance mar­ket must oc­cur,” McConnell, R-Ky., said Thurs­day. It was one of his most ex­plicit con­ces­sions that a top pri­or­ity for Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump and the en­tire GOP, eras­ing much of Obama’s 2010 statute, might fall short.

He pro­vided no de­tails dur­ing re­marks he made at a Ro­tary Club lunch in a con­ser­va­tive ru­ral area of south­ern Ken­tucky.

Pre­vi­ously, other Repub­li­cans have said that if their broad drive to dis­man­tle much of Obama’s law strug­gled, a smaller bill with quick help for in­sur­ers and con­sumers might be needed. They’ve said it could in­clude pro­vi­sions con­tin­u­ing fed­eral pay­ments to in­sur­ers that help them con­tain costs for some low earn­ers and in­duce­ments to keep healthy peo­ple buy­ing poli­cies, a step that helps curb pre­mi­ums.

McConnell’s com­ments sug­gested that to show progress on health care, Repub­li­cans con­trol­ling the White House and Congress might have to ne­go­ti­ate with Democrats. While the cur­rent, wide-rang­ing GOP health care bill has pro­ce­dural pro­tec­tions against a Demo­cratic fil­i­buster in the Se­nate, a sub­se­quent, nar­rower mea­sure wouldn’t and would take 60 votes to pass.

The broader re­peal ef­fort that McConnell prefers would fail if just three of the 52 Repub­li­cans vote no, since all Democrats op­pose it. He can­celed a vote on the mea­sure last week af­ter far more Repub­li­cans than that ob­jected, and he’s been spend­ing the In­de­pen­dence Day re­cess study­ing changes that might win over GOP dis­si­dents.

“We have an obli­ga­tion to the Amer­i­can peo­ple to try and im­prove what we cur­rently have. What we do know is the sta­tus quo is not sus­tain­able,” he said.

Se­nate Mi­nor­ity Leader Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., called it en­cour­ag­ing that McConnell had “opened the door to bi­par­ti­san so­lu­tions.” He said the fo­cus should be on con­tin­u­ing the fed­eral pay­ments to in­sur­ers, which Trump has threat­ened to halt.

Democrats have said they won’t ne­go­ti­ate un­til Repub­li­cans aban­don their re­peal ef­fort.

McConnell’s com­ments came dur­ing a re­cess that has pro­duced no vis­i­ble ev­i­dence that he’s win­nowed the num­ber of un­happy Repub­li­can sen­a­tors. If any­thing, the list seemed to have grown, as Sen. John Ho­even, R-N.D., said he op­posed the bill but was vague about changes he’d want.

At least a dozen GOP sen­a­tors have pub­licly op­posed or crit­i­cized the leg­is­la­tion.

Repub­li­cans have said Obama’s law is fail­ing, cit­ing mar­kets around the coun­try where in­sur­ers have pulled out or sharply boosted pre­mi­ums. Some ar­eas are down to a sin­gle in­surer.

Democrats ac­knowl­edge Obama’s law needs changes that would help curb the growth of health care costs. But they say the GOP is ex­ag­ger­at­ing the prob­lem and note that sev­eral in­sur­ers have at­trib­uted their de­ci­sions to stop sell­ing poli­cies in un­prof­itable ar­eas, in part, to Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion in­di­ca­tions that it may halt pay­ments to in­sur­ers.

In its re­port last week on the Se­nate bill, the non­par­ti­san Con­gres­sional Bud­get Of­fice said that un­der Obama’s law, it ex­pected health care mar­kets “to be sta­ble in most ar­eas.”

It said the same about the Se­nate leg­is­la­tion. But it also said un­der the GOP bill, 22 mil­lion more Amer­i­cans would be unin­sured be­cause it would elim­i­nate Obama’s tax penalty on peo­ple who don’t buy cov­er­age and it would cut Med­i­caid, the health in­sur­ance pro­gram for the poor, dis­abled and many nurs­ing home pa­tients.

Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, said Thurs­day on San An­to­nio’s KTSA Ra­dio that the GOP’s Se­nate ma­jor­ity “is so nar­row, I don’t know if we can get it done or not.”

Dozens of pro­test­ers were ar­rested na­tion­wide af­ter oc­cu­py­ing the lo­cal of­fices of Repub­li­can sen­a­tors, a protest against the Bet­ter Care Rec­on­cil­i­a­tion Act or­ga­nized by a coali­tion of left­ist groups.

The protests took place in Ari­zona, Arkansas, Florida, Ken­tucky, Louisiana, Mis­souri, Ohio and Wis­con­sin, with slightly dif­fer­ent mis­sions. They were or­ga­nized by chap­ters of Demo­cratic So­cial­ists of Amer­ica, So­cial­ist Al­ter­na­tive, In­di­vis­i­ble, Our Rev­o­lu­tion and the Work­ing Fam­i­lies Party.

In some cities, like Den­ver’s protest of Sen. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., and Phoenix’s protest of Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., ac­tivists re­fused to leave and were de­tained by po­lice. No one was ar­rested at the protests in Arkansas.

In Ohio, ac­tivists found them­selves able to stay overnight in the of­fices of Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio.

By mid­day Fri­day, many of the pro­test­ers were still camped out at Portman’s of­fices, sug­gest­ing they might leave only if he held a town­hall-style meet­ing. In­for­ma­tion for this ar­ti­cle was con­trib­uted by Bruce Schreiner, Alan Fram, Marc Levy and John Hanna of The As­so­ci­ated Press; and by David Weigel of The Wash­ing­ton Post.

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