GOP leaders struggle to save healthcare bill

Republicans on Tuesday were scrambling to save a healthcare bill that was “hanging by a thread” following a brutal report Monday afternoon by the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) that has firmed the resolve of a handful of GOP senators opposing the legislation for various and conflicting reasons.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and Vice President Mike Pence met Tuesday with fellow Republicans to determine the next step forward. McConnell had been pushing for a full Senate vote by the July 4 break, but after the meeting he announced that action on the legislation -- which was unveiled last Thursday after weeks of closed-door negotiations among Senate Republicans -- would be delayed until after the July 4 recess.

The CBO estimated in its analysis of the GOP’s “Better Care Reconciliation Act of 2017” that the bill would increase the number of Americans without health coverage by 22 million in 2026, only slightly less than the 23 million estimated last month by the CBO to lose coverage under the American Health Care Act (AHCA) passed in early May by the House.

“By 2026,” the CBO said Monday, “an estimated 49 million people would be uninsured, compared with 28 million who would lack insurance that year under current law.”

Most of those people losing health coverage under the Senate GOP’s replacement plan for the Affordable Care Act (ACA) would be low-income; the Senate bill calls for reducing and terminating federal matching funds for Medicaid and placing a per capita-based cap on Medicaid payments.

The Senate bill also eliminates the individual mandate requiring eligible Americans to have health coverage, which CBO estimates will cause 15 million people to lose coverage in 2018.

With only a 52-48 majority in the Senate, Republicans face an uphill struggle in gaining enough support to move ahead to a vote. Several conservative GOP senators, including Rand Paul of Kentucky, Ted Cruz of Texas, and Mike Lee of Utah, oppose the Senate bill because they don’t believe it goes far enough to dismantle the ACA, also known as Obamacare.

In addition, more moderate Republican Senators such as Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Dean Heller of Nevada,  and Jeff Flake of Arizona have expressed opposition to the deep Medicaid cuts in the proposed bill.

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Thirty-three percent of the American public supports a single-payer system, up from 21 percent in 2014.
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Lack of awareness is in contrast to strong public support for program subsidizing healthcare for low-income people.

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