Jun 30, 2017

Senate health bill: Mission accomplished?

Alex Brandon / AP

Senate Republicans didn't get a health care deal nailed down before leaving town — but they don't want to lose momentum, so they're going to send the Congressional Budget Office some broad outlines of a new bill to look at over the recess. If that sounds like an anticlimax, and you expected more, you haven't been watching Senate Republicans for the last two months.

Here's where things stand on the Senate's health care bill as we head into the sweet, sweet mercy of a weeklong recess.

  • GOP leaders plan to send at least an outline of a new version of the health care bill to the Congressional Budget Office by the end of the day, even if a deal hasn't been reached yet.
  • Senators were still all over the map yesterday on a handful of key provisions. The moderates are still worried about Medicaid and the conservatives are still angling for new regulatory carve-outs (more on that in a minute). So, whatever decisions leadership makes today probably won't fill in every detail.
  • But aides told Caitlin Owens they can send the broad strokes over to CBO now, and fill in the gaps later. They have to get the ball rolling today in order to have a score by the middle of July, and a vote before the August recess.
  • Per Jonathan Swan: The mood was somber at a Thursday afternoon meeting between HHS Secretary Tom Price and senior White House officials, and significantly more negative than the day before, per a source familiar with the meeting. In short: the moderate Republican senators aren't buying what Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is selling. At least not yet.

Here's what's on the table as leadership looks for a final deal:

  • As much as $45 billion to help fight the opioid crisis. But, for the most part, the senators clamoring for this funding are the same ones concerned about the bill's Medicaid cuts, and opioid funding alone might not be enough to win them over.
  • A new provision allowing people to use tax-preferred health savings accounts to pay their premiums.
  • A surprising number of Republicans seem totally cool with not repealing the ACA's tax increase on wealthy people's investment income, and using the revenue to fund more generous premium subsidies in the ACA's exchanges. The "repeal" bill looks more like the ACA every day.

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