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McConnell: New Senate Healthcare Bill 'Another Opportunity to Do What's Right'

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), followed by Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-Texas), leaves a Republican meeting on healthcare June 22, 2017, on Capitol Hill. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

WASHINGTON — The 142-page discussion draft of the Senate GOP healthcare bill was hailed as “a better way forward” by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), while Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) slammed it as “heartless” — a dig on President Trump saying in the drafting stages that the bill needed “more heart.”

The Senate version of Obamacare repeal-and-replace kills the individual and employer mandates and phases out the Cadillac tax in 2026. Whereas Obamacare lets insurers charge seniors three times more than young people, this plan would bump up the ratio to five times as much.

While the House bill ends Medicaid expansion in 2020, the Senate bill begins the phase-out in 2021 until 2024. After then, the Senate bill would inflict deeper cuts on Medicaid than the House version. Obamacare tax credits would be cut while keeping the same qualification criteria in place.

On pre-existing conditions, the Senate bill doesn’t go as far as the House waivers but gives states more coverage flexibility. Planned Parenthood would be defunded for a year under the bill.

The bill has not yet been scored by the Congressional Budget Office. McConnell said he’ll wait for the score before a vote, though he’s also said he wants to get the bill done before the July 4 recess.

“We agree on the need to stabilize the insurance markets that are collapsing under Obamacare as well, and policies contained in the discussion draft will implement stabilization policies so we can bring financial certainty to insurance markets, and hope to Americans who face the possibility of limited or zero options next year under Obamacare; and ultimately transition away from Obamacare’s collapsing system entirely so more Americans will not be hurt,” McConnell said on the Senate floor today. “We also agree on the need to strengthen Medicaid, preserve access to care for patients with pre-existing conditions, and allow children to stay on their parents’ health insurance through the age of 26.”

He promised “a robust debate and an open amendment process here on the Senate floor, a process that I would encourage each of our 100 senators to participate in.”

“When legislation does come to the floor, it will present Senate Democrats with another opportunity to do what’s right for the American people,” McConnell added. “They can choose to keep standing by as their failing law continues to collapse and hurt more Americans, but I hope they will join us instead to bring relief to the families who have struggled under Obamacare for far too long.”

A number of disabled protesters who staged a sit-in at McConnell’s office to protest Medicaid cuts were carried or led away by Capitol Police today.

Schumer noted that “within 10 years of this new funding system, the cuts to Medicaid could total hundreds of billions of dollars above the more than $800 billion the House bill already cuts from the program — and every senior in America should read the fine print of this bill.”

He declared the legislation “every bit as bad as the House bill — in some ways, it’s even worse.”

“The president said the Senate bill needed heart. The way this bill cuts healthcare is heartless. The president said the House bill was mean. The Senate bill may be meaner. The Senate Republican healthcare bill is a wolf in sheep’s clothing, only this wolf has even sharper teeth than the House bill.”

Schumer charged that McConnell vowing an open amendment process “is turning truth upside down.”

“Can we allow at least one hour on each amendment, not two minutes? Will we have more time than 10 hours to debate the bill?” he said. “I hope so. But if not, please don’t call this an open and fair process. If you want to rush it through, admit the consequences.”

The Democratic National Committee quickly launched a new ad:

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) declared the bill to be “even worse than expected and by far the most harmful piece of legislation I have seen in my lifetime.”

“This bill has nothing to do with healthcare. It has everything to do with an enormous transfer of wealth from working people to the richest Americans,” he said.

House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) told reporters today that he’s “not going to opine” on the process in the Senate, but believes “their bill tracks, in many ways, along the lines of the House bill — I think that’s very good.”

“We made a promise that we would repeal and replace this law. I’m very happy that the Senate has gone through the work of putting together a bill that keeps that promise,” Ryan said. “And so, yeah, I’m eager for them to pass it.”

Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) argued that the Medicaid inflation pace wouldn’t equal cuts. “The draft Senate healthcare bill makes no change in the law protecting people with pre-existing conditions, no change in Medicare benefits, and increases Medicaid funding— that’s TennCare—at the rate of inflation,” Alexander said.

“I’m going to continue to review this draft. I’m going to see what it costs when the Congressional Budget Office gives its report,” he added. “Then, I’m going to stay focused on it next week as the bill goes to the Senate floor – where it will be subject to virtually unlimited amendments – and my focus will be on how it affects Tennesseans.”

At a morning event, Trump was asked if the Senate bill has enough heart. “A little negotiation, but it’s going to be very good,” the president replied.