Your senators no longer have to wonder about what they're voting on next; the full text of the Senate "skinny repeal" bill was released. Granted, it was released just before 10 p.m. ET, which sets up Thursday as a long night for senators and their staffers at the Capitol. First off they have to read the text, then comes the vote, and meanwhile there will be a vote-a-rama including amendments from any interested senator — and there are promises of hundreds of proposals to come, late into the night.
As for the skinny repeal bill text itself, it includes a bit more than was first hinted at in the media. First, there's the name: This version of the bill would be called the Health Care Freedom Act. All the various names put forward so far can be fought over with the House should this version pass.
But on to the substance. The bill would basically get rid of the individual mandate. While it would not technically remove or repeal that bit of the law of Obamacare, it would reduce the penalties, currently the greater of $695 or 2.5 percent of your income, to $0 and "zero percent." That's something that an insurance company lobbying group came out against on Thursday, claiming it would wreak havoc on the insurance market by raising costs and lowering choice. The employer mandate would also be reduced to $0 until 2025.
Other details include a delay on implementing the medical device tax, an increase to the amount of money that can be added to a health savings account, defunding Planned Parenthood, and an increase in spending for community health centers. Finally, with the passage of this bill, states would have the option to seek waivers for the benefit rules mandated by the Affordable Care Act — in other words, states could get permission to offer plans that don't offer complete coverage.
None of this shouts better or cheaper health care coverage. If you are young and healthy and choose not to buy insurance, you'll no longer face a fine. Otherwise, this likely won't improve your situation.
The Congressional Budget Office has already scored the bill. According to the CBO, about 15 million more Americans would be without insurance next year, and premiums would go up by about 20 percent. The federal budget deficit would also decrease by $179 billion over a decade, ranging from a $4 billion increase in 2017 to $58 billion decrease in 2026.
Earlier Thursday, Sen. Lindsey Graham said, "The skinny bill as policy is a disaster, the skinny bill as a replacement for Obamacare is a fraud." Whether the actual wording can convince him and the other holdout GOP senators to support the bill remains to be seen.