Senate Republicans on Thursday released the newest version of their legislation to repeal and replace Obamacare, unveiling several changes aimed at bringing reluctant supporters on board. The changes were not enough to win over Sens. Rand Paul and Susan Collins, but the hope is that the new bill will address enough disparate concerns within the party to (narrowly) pass the legislation along. Deep consideration of the bill will have to wait, however, until Sen. John McCain returns to the Senate floor; he’s recovering from blood clot surgery and could be out until next week. In the meantime, the Congressional Budget Office is expected to score the new bill – the results of their analysis could once again change the dynamics going into a final vote.
How does the new healthcare legislation differ from the original bill? Here are four things to know about it.
Increased Funding for States
Included in the new healthcare bill is an extra $70 billion that will be funneled to the states so they can pursue their own, unique reforms. The proposal says that the money will be essential to bring down premiums through cost-sharing. The extra $70 billion is on top of the $112 billion that was already offered through the original legislation.
This is an aspect of the new draft that could see even more changes before this comes up for a vote. The current version of the bill retains the cuts to Medicaid funding expansion, but it includes some more flexibility for states to spend in case of a public health crisis. It will also give states the option of applying for waivers when it comes to public services for the disabled and the elderly. Moderates like Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, however, want to see the bill roll back even more of the Medicaid cuts.
The Cruz Amendment
It’s not an exaggeration to say that Sen. Ted Cruz is largely responsible for this new draft of the bill winning over some conservative support. While it hasn’t been enough to bring Rand Paul on board, several other conservatives in the Senate have been sufficiently impressed by what’s called “the Cruz amendment” to pledge their loyalty to the bill. Cruz’s contribution was to allow insurance companies to sell plans that provide limited coverage as long as they keep at least one plan that meets the ACA’s requirements. This amendment could bring premiums down considerably for insurance shoppers, but it could also raise the cost of insurance for those with pre-existing conditions.
Republicans addressed the ongoing opioid addiction crisis in the original bill but the new one goes much further with much more money. The first draft of the Senate healthcare bill set aside $2 billion in federal funds for substance abuse and mental health treatments. However, as a result of Sen. Rob Portman’s efforts, the new bill will allocate no less than $45 billion to treatment programs for opioid addiction.