Let cov­er­age mar­ket fail, Trump says

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - FRONT PAGE - In­for­ma­tion for this ar­ti­cle was con­trib­uted by Thomas Ka­plan, Avan­tika Chilkoti, Emily Cochrane, Robert Pear and Jen­nifer Stein­hauer of The New York Times; by Juliet Eilperin, Sean Sul­li­van, Ed O’Keefe, Mike DeBo­nis and Kelsey Snell of The Wash­ing­ton Po

WASH­ING­TON — With their bill to re­peal and re­place the health care law in tat­ters, Se­nate lead­ers on Tues­day pushed to vote on a dif­fer­ent mea­sure that would re­peal key parts of Pres­i­dent Barack Obama’s health law without pro­vid­ing a re­place­ment.

But Sens. Su­san Collins of Maine, Shel­ley Moore Capito of West Vir­ginia and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, all Repub­li­cans, im­me­di­ately de­clared that they could not vote to re­peal the health care law without a re­place­ment.

Their three votes are enough to doom the re­peal mea­sure given the GOP’s slim 52- 48 ma­jor­ity the Se­nate.

Sen. Rob Port­man, R-Ohio, sig­naled that he, too, would op­pose a re­peal-only bill.

“I did not come to Wash­ing­ton to hurt peo­ple,” Capito said in a state­ment. “I can­not vote to re­peal Oba­macare without a re­place­ment plan that ad­dresses my con­cerns and the needs of West Vir­gini­ans.”

Collins said in her state­ment that she had urged Se­nate Health, Ed­u­ca­tion, La­bor and Pen­sions Com­mit­tee Chair­man La­mar Alexan­der, R-Tenn., to hold hear­ings in an at­tempt to fash­ion a leg­isla­tive rem­edy for the 2010 Pa­tient Pro­tec­tion and Af­ford­able Care Act, while leav­ing it in place in the mean­time.

The col­lapse of the Se­nate Repub­li­can health bill ar­rives af­ter years un­der Obama dur­ing which

Repub­li­can sen­a­tors freely as­sailed the health law, but now, they have not been able to come up with a work­able plan to un­wind it that would keep both mod­er­ate Repub­li­cans and con­ser­va­tives on board.

By mid­day Tues­day, the Repub­li­can Party’s 7-year-old prom­ise to re­peal the health care law ap­peared bro­ken.

Speak­ing to re­porters in the Roo­sevelt Room on Tues­day af­ter­noon, Pres­i­dent Donald Trump said he was “dis­ap­pointed” in the demise of the Se­nate bill and viewed the cra­ter­ing of the na­tion’s in­di­vid­ual in­surance mar­ket as the best way to ad­vance his goals.

“It will be a lot eas­ier,” Trump said, adding, “We’re not go­ing to own it. I’m not go­ing to own it. I can tell you the Repub­li­cans are not go­ing to own it. We’ll let Oba­macare fail, and then the Democrats are go­ing to come to us.”

On Capi­tol Hill, Repub­li­cans and Democrats alike were try­ing to make sense of the bill’s down­fall — and what comes next.

Two Repub­li­can sen­a­tors, Collins and Rand Paul of Ken­tucky, af­firmed their op­po­si­tion to the mea­sure last week, leav­ing McCon­nell with no room for er­ror as he tried to move to­ward a vote.

On Mon­day night, two more Repub­li­can sen­a­tors, Mike Lee of Utah and Jerry Mo­ran of Kansas, came out in op­po­si­tion to the bill, leav­ing Repub­li­can lead­ers at least two votes short of those needed to start de­bate on the mea­sure.

Sen. Or­rin Hatch, R-Utah, of­fered a blunt as­sess­ment of why Se­nate Repub­li­cans fell short on their bill.

“We are so evenly di­vided, and we’ve got to have ev­ery Repub­li­can to make things work — and we didn’t have ev­ery Repub­li­can,” he said.

Sen. Mitch McCon­nell of Ken­tucky, the ma­jor­ity leader, said early Tues­day that he re­gret­ted the set­backs dealt to the bill, then pitched the re­peal-only plan.

“I re­gret that the ef­fort to re­peal and im­me­di­ately re­place the fail­ures of Oba­macare will not be suc­cess­ful,” McCon­nell said on the Se­nate floor Tues­day morn­ing. “That doesn’t mean we should give up. We will now try a dif­fer­ent way to bring the Amer­i­can peo­ple re­lief from Oba­macare. I think we owe them at least that much.”

Speak­ing on the Se­nate floor, McCon­nell laid out plans for a vote on a mea­sure like the one ve­toed by Obama in Jan­uary 2016, which, McCon­nell said, would in­clude a “re­peal of Oba­macare com­bined with a sta­ble, two-year tran­si­tion pe­riod.”

Many Repub­li­cans have said they sup­port the re­peal-only ap­proach, and they ques­tioned how sen­a­tors who voted for the leg­is­la­tion two years ago could op­pose it now.

“We’re go­ing to find out if there’s hypocrisy in the United States Se­nate in the next few days, I’m afraid,” said Sen. David Per­due, R-Ge­or­gia.

Un­der a re­peal-only bill, the Con­gres­sional Bud­get Of­fice said, 18 mil­lion more peo­ple would be unin­sured within a year, and 32 mil­lion fewer peo­ple would have cov­er­age in 2026, com­pared with cur­rent law. Pre­mi­ums, it said, would in­crease at least 20 per­cent in the first year and would dou­ble by 2026.

That bill would have elim­i­nated the health care law’s ex­pan­sion of Med­i­caid and sub­si­dies for the pur­chase of pri­vate in­surance. But it would have left in place rules estab­lished by the health care law that re­quire in­sur­ers to pro­vide spe­cific ben­e­fits and pro­hibit in­sur­ers from deny­ing cov­er­age or charg­ing higher pre­mi­ums be­cause of a per­son’s pre-ex­ist­ing med­i­cal con­di­tions.

Still, the num­bers de­terred Murkowski — and oth­ers.

“There’s enough chaos and un­cer­tainty al­ready, and this would just con­trib­ute to it,” she said.

The CBO re­port also spooked a bi­par­ti­san group of 11 gov­er­nors, led by John Ka­sich of Ohio, a Repub­li­can, and John Hick­en­looper of Colorado, a Demo­crat, and in­clud­ing Gov. Brian San­doval of Ne­vada, a key op­po­nent of the re­peal ef­fort.

“The Se­nate should im­me­di­ately re­ject ef­forts to re­peal the cur­rent sys­tem and re­place some­time later,” wrote the group, which con­sists of five Repub­li­cans, five Democrats and one in­de­pen­dent. “This could leave mil­lions of Amer­i­cans without cov­er­age. The best next step is for both par­ties to come to­gether and do what we can all agree on: fix our un­sta­ble in­surance mar­kets.”

The state­ment was en­dorsed by the gov­er­nors of Alaska, Louisiana, Mary­land, Mas­sachusetts, Mon­tana, Ne­vada, Penn­syl­va­nia, Ver­mont and Vir­ginia.

The 11 gov­er­nors, as well as a hand­ful of sen­a­tors, also called on con­gres­sional lead­ers to launch a bi­par­ti­san process to re­vamp the na­tion’s health care sys­tem.

The gov­er­nors said in their state­ment that they “stand ready to work with law­mak­ers in an open, bi­par­ti­san way to pro­vide bet­ter in­surance for all Amer­i­cans.”

Sen. Ron John­son, R-Wis., said Tues­day that law­mak­ers need to get a more de­tailed anal­y­sis of what has caused con­sumers’ pre­mi­ums to rise and what could make in­surance more af­ford­able.

“We didn’t have the courage to lay out ex­actly what caused pre­mi­ums to in­crease,” John­son said, not­ing that sen­a­tors didn’t even have an up-to-date bud­get anal­y­sis of the lat­est health care pro­posal. “It’s an in­sane process. If you don’t have in­for­ma­tion, how can you even have a le­git­i­mate discussion and de­bate?”

As Repub­li­cans tried to re­group, Se­nate Mi­nor­ity Leader Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., re­newed his calls for the ma­jor­ity to work with Democrats to shore up the health in­surance sys­tem.

“It should be crys­tal clear to ev­ery­one on the other side of the aisle that the core of the bill is un­work­able. It’s time to move on. It’s time to start over,” he said. “Rather than re­peat­ing this same, failed par­ti­san process again, Repub­li­cans should work with Democrats on a bill that low­ers pre­mi­ums, pro­vides long-term sta­bil­ity to the in­surance mar­kets and im­proves our health- care sys­tem.

“Now that their one-party ef­fort has largely failed, we hope they will change their tune,” he said, ob­serv­ing that some Repub­li­cans had called for bi­par­ti­san talks.

Schumer quoted Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., who said Mon­day night that “Congress must re­turn to reg­u­lar or­der” and re­write the health care leg­is­la­tion with in­put from both par­ties.

“The door to bi­par­ti­san­ship is open now. Repub­li­cans only need to walk through it,” Schumer said.

AP/PABLO MARTINEZ MONSIVAIS

Pres­i­dent Donald Trump said Tues­day at the White House that he was “dis­ap­pointed” that the Se­nate health care bill had failed, but con­tended “the Democrats are go­ing to come to us” be­cause the cur­rent law will fal­ter.

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