Heavy criticism, little enthusiasm greet Senate healthcare bill

The Senate version of the American Health Care Act (AHCA) released late Thursday morning immediately drew negative reactions from Democrats, former President Barack Obama, and a small number of Republican senators whose support is needed for passage of the GOP-crafted bill.

While making modest changes to the House ACHA bill passed in early May, the Senate’s 142-page “Better Care Reconciliation Act of 2017” – written mostly behind closed doors with no input from Democrats or even most Republican senators – would cut even more federal support from Medicaid than would the House plan, while also repealing the individual mandate created by the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

The bill ran into immediate problems within the GOP, as The Washington Post reports:

Four conservative senators—Rand Paul of Kentucky, Ted Cruz of Texas, Mike Lee of Utah, and Ron Johnson of Wisconsin—quickly declared their opposition to the plan as written on the grounds that it did not go far enough in fulfilling the GOP’s promise to repeal Obamacare. “Currently, for a variety of reasons, we are not ready to vote for this bill,” they said in a joint statement while reiterating their desire for more negotiation.

With a slim 52-48 majority in the Senate, Republicans can barely afford any defections if they want to achieve their long-stated goal of replacing the ACA, also known as Obamacare. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is pushing for a full Senate vote before the July 4 break, giving most legislators little time to analyze the legislation and assess its potential impact.

President Donald Trump offered guarded praise for the Senate bill, saying it will “require a little negotiation but it’s going to be good.” Former President Obama, not surprisingly, was far less enthusiastic.

"Simply put, if there’s a chance you might get sick, get old, or start a family – this bill will do you harm," Obama wrote in a Facebook post. "And small tweaks over the course of the next couple weeks, under the guise of making these bills easier to stomach, cannot change the fundamental meanness at the core of this legislation."

In comments made on the Senate floor Thursday, Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin, D-Ill., said, "You can put a lace collar on a Pit Bull, and it's still a mean dog. What we have with the Republicans in the Senate here is an attempt to dust off the edges of the House bill and say this is not as mean. This is still a mean dog."

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