USA TODAY International Edition

Senate Republican­s woo conservati­ves in new draft of health care bill

Lawmakers confer on need for public debate, amendments

- Erin Kelly and Eliza Collins

WASHINGTON Senate Republican leaders are adding new language to their health care bill to allow the sale of cheap, bare- bones insurance plans in an attempt to draw enough conservati­ve support to pass the measure to replace Obamacare.

At the same time, the bill will give moderates more of what they want by increasing funding to fight opioid addiction from $ 2 billion in the original bill to $ 45 billion in the latest draft.

The draft bill, expected to be released later Thursday, will try to appeal to conservati­ves by including a version of an amendment by Sens. Ted Cruz, R- Texas, and Mike Lee, R- Utah, that would allow the sale of deregulate­d insurance plans as long as Obamacare- compliant plans are also still sold.

Insurance companies have strongly opposed the Cruz amendment, saying it would cause more instabilit­y in the marketplac­e. Supporters of the plan say it will give consumers the option to choose the right plan for their lifestyle. But critics say older and sicker Americans will end up paying much more for their more robust coverage.

The revised proposal would continue the Affordable Care Act's taxes on high- income earners to help subsidize care for lower- income Americans.

It was not clear whether the changes would attract enough votes to pass the legislatio­n, which Republican­s are calling the Better Care Reconcilia­tion Act.

Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R- Ky., can only afford to lose two of the 52 Republican senators to pass the legislatio­n. About 10 GOP senators opposed the initial Republican bill that was unveiled last month, and McConnell scrapped a planned vote at the end of June.

Democrats have opposed the bill, calling on Republican­s to try to fix problems with the existing Obamacare system.

McConnell hopes to hold a vote on the revised bill next week, after the nonpartisa­n Congressio­nal Budget Office releases a new analysis of what it will cost and how many people it would insure.

Sens. Lindsey Graham, R- S. C., and Bill Cassidy, R- La., offered an alternativ­e Thursday that they said could help attract 50 votes if the latest proposal from GOP leaders doesn't.

"Just like no two patients are the same, no two states’ health care needs are the same ...” Lindsey Graham, R- S. C.

Their plan would leave taxes on wealthy individual­s in place and send the current federal funding for Obamacare, estimated at about $ 110 billion last year, to the states in the form of block grants that governors could use however they want.

"Instead of having a one- sizefits- all solution from Washington, we should return dollars back to the states to address each individual state’s health care needs," Graham said. "Just like no two patients are the same, no two states’ health care needs are the same ... The state would have a pot of money from the federal government to get the best health care outcomes for their residents."

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