Senate Republicans unveiled a revised version of their health care bill Thursday, eliciting a mixed response from voters and fellow legislators. In their latest attempt to repeal and replace Obamacare, senior Senate Republicans are hoping to garner enough votes to pass the health care legislation through a series of changes aimed at appeasing both moderate and conservative members of their party. But there's one thing about the revised Senate health care bill you should know.
In a last-minute effort to draw the support of conservative holdouts, Republican Senate leaders slipped a modified version of a controversial amendment proposed by Sen. Ted Cruz into the Better Care Reconciliation Act. The Cruz Amendment would essentially exempt insurance providers who offer at least one plan that meets all of the Affordable Care Act's regulations from adhering to consumer protections. This means insurers could offer significantly stripped-down plans without comprehensive benefits — plans that do not adhere to standards outlined in the ACA — as long as kept at least one compliant plan for sale.
Cruz called Republican Senate leaders' decision to include his provision "very encouraging" in an interview on KFYI radio station, according to the New York Times. "I think failing to get this done would be really catastrophic, and I don't think any of the Republican senators want to see failure come out of this," Cruz reportedly said.
However, some within the insurance lobby have warned Cruz's provision could serve to destabilize the individual insurance market by causing the cost of plans that comply with ACA regulations to skyrocket as healthy consumers switch to the stripped-down plans, leaving those who are sick or have pre-existing conditions potentially priced out of insurance policies.
A Kaiser Family Foundation analysis of Sen. Cruz's provision concluded:
The ACA-compliant plans would effectively become a high-risk pool, attracting enrollees when they need costly health benefits – such as maternity care, or drugs to treat cancer or HIV, or therapies to treat mental health and substance abuse disorders – and those with pre-existing conditions who are turned down by non-compliant plans or charged high premiums based on their health. By contrast, non-compliant plans would attract healthier consumers, at least as long as they didn’t need coverage for such benefits. Premiums from the healthier enrollees would not be pooled to help keep the price of compliant plans affordable. As a result, premiums for compliant plans would increase significantly, while premiums for non-compliant plans would be substantially lower (though they would also cover fewer benefits).
It remains unclear if senior Senate Republicans will be able to garner the number of votes needed to see the Better Care Reconciliation Act passed, especially considering the Cruz Amendment that could offer policies that just aren't up to snuff. Republican Sens. Rand Paul and Susan Collins have already said they would not support even a motion to take up the bill.