Cory Gardner 'carefully reviewing' new Senate health care bill; Bennet wants to start over

CHI: Not much changes for Coloradans
Cory Gardner 'carefully reviewing' new Senate health care bill; Bennet wants to start over
Posted at 3:52 PM, Jul 13, 2017
and last updated 2017-07-13 18:40:35-04

DENVER – U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner says he’s “carefully reviewing” the revised Senate health care draft discussion bill released Thursday as several of his fellow Senate Republican colleagues sit on the fence on the revisions, putting in question whether or not the bill will make it to a floor vote next week.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., took the Senate’s version of the bill aimed at “repealing and replacing” the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, back to the drawing board after a handful of Republicans said they wouldn’t even support bringing the Senate’s initial bill, the Better Care Reconciliation Act of 2017, to the floor for debate.

Now, some of those senators remain on the fence about the revised bill, which still contains the same deep cuts to future Medicaid spending and risks to people with pre-existing conditions the first bill contained.

Sens. Lisa Murkowski, Shelley Moore Capito and Rob Portman—all Republicans—all didn’t support the first bill, and all said Thursday they had to review the revised bill and any possible Congressional Budget Office score on it before they knew whether they’d vote to bring the revised bill to the floor. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, who also didn't support the first bill, said she’d vote against bringing the new bill to the floor on Thursday. Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky has also said he won't support the bill.

The first CBO score for the BCRA said 22 million fewer people would have insurance by 2026 under the new plan when compared to the Affordable Care Act, and said the Medicaid population would be decimated in favor of the elimination of taxes on the wealthy and insurance companies.

McConnell said again Thursday he expects the Senate to vote on the bill next week.

But if only three Republicans decide they aren’t supportive of the new bill, McConnell will again have to figure out what to do next.

The Senate adjourned at 6 p.m. Thursday and won't be back in session until 3 p.m. ET on Monday.

Sen. Cory Gardner "reviewing the legislation and latest changes"

Gardner has been mostly mum on whether or not he’s supported any Senate bill brought forth thus far, opting to say instead he’s reviewing the bills and trying to find solutions to fix the Affordable Care Act, which he, like the president has said, claims is “imploding.”

On Thursday, Gardner said he believed the revised bill will be amended further before a vote is taken—should the bill make it to a floor vote at all.

“I’m carefully reviewing the legislation and the latest changes outlined today in the Senate health care bill. Through the amendment process, this measure will still likely have additional revisions made to it,” Gardner said in a statement.

He also said that he was looking for more input from his constituents on the bills, whom the senator has heard from in droves over the past several months as several protests have taken place at his local offices.

“I’ll continue to listen to my constituents about finding ways to address the severe problems created by the Affordable Care Act on Colorado’s health care system,” Gardner said Thursday.

But many moderates and Democrats in Colorado have chastised Gardner for not hosting any in-person town halls to talk about health care, as he's instead held several town halls over the phone and met with small groups of Colorado businesses and agriculturalists.

Liberal groups in Colorado say Gardner's not listening, however

But liberal Colorado health care group Protect Our Care Colorado was already pressuring Gardner again after Thursday’s bill release.

“Sen. Bennet has taken a clear stand to oppose any bill that hurts Coloradans,” said the group’s director, Adam Fox. “We implore Sen. Gardner, who helped craft this monstrosity, to reject this bill that takes coverage away from people, ends the Medicaid expansion, decimates the Medicaid program and leaves people with pre-existing conditions without affordable insurance.”

Julie Reiskin, the executive director of the Colorado Cross Disability Coalition, said the bill was “devastating the people living with disabilities.”

Sen. Bennet again calls for bipartisan solution

Gardner’s fellow senator from Colorado, Democrat Michael Bennet, continued to plea Thursday for a bipartisan effort to address some of the shortcomings he’s admitted exist in the Affordable Care Act—something he’s done since the House first passed its version of a new health care bill, the American Health Care Act.

“The foundation of this bill remains deeply flawed. Not one Coloradan has asked me to fix health care by cutting taxes for special interests, slashing Medicaid, or eliminating coverage for pre-existing conditions,” Bennet said. “We should scrap this bill and start over with a bipartisan process to reform our health care system.”

Earlier this week, Bennet made a fiery speech in which he said that none of the people he’d talked to at town hall meetings in Colorado were supportive of the “terrible” Republican health care bills.

Two of Colorado's Democratic members of the House, Reps. Ed Perlmutter and Diana DeGette, again Thursday called for Republicans to stop working on the bills by themselves and to instead work with Democrats.

Nonpartisan Colorado Health Institute: New bill doesn't change projections

On the policy side of the issue, the nonpartisan Colorado Health Institute said Thursday the new bill wouldn’t change the projections its analysts made when the first Senate bill was released: 600,000 Coloradans would lose insurance coverage by 2030 because many would lose coverage under Medicaid, and the state would lose between $14 million and $15 million in federal funding.

The CHI says it’s possible that a newly-included provision of the revised Senate bill that allows for block-grant funding of the expanded Medicaid services in Colorado might let states keep expanded Medicaid, though it hadn’t finished its analysis.

“This small section of the bill hasn’t received much notice today, but we will be keeping an eye on it because it might be an option for Colorado if the bill passes,” CHI wrote in a blog post.

CHI also said it hadn’t yet modeled the amendment inserted provisionally into the bill by Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, that allows insurance companies to offer cheap plans to people not currently allowed under the Affordable Care Act in exchange for shifting more high-cost patients into high-risk pools. The amendment would also remove the essential health benefits required to be covered under the ACA.

But CHI said that other national analysis found that older Americans and people without perfect health could pay more because of the amendment.

The Senate put the amendment in brackets, meaning it could be removed before a final vote. It’s unclear if the CBO score Senate Republicans expect on the bill early next week will score the Cruz Amendment, as it’s being called.

“No one expects today’s bill to be the final version. If Republican leaders can secure enough votes to begin debate next week, then dozens of amendments could be offered,” CHI wrote. “So next week will be a crucial moment in the debate over the future of U.S. health policy.”

Should a vote not materialize next week, McConnell has already canceled the first two weeks of the August Senate work recess to focus on Republican policy priorities, which he hopes won't include health care by then, but may.