health-care battle
September 13, 2017

Backed by at least 15 Democratic senators, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) will introduce legislation Wednesday to expand Medicare into a universal health insurance program.

The only way for the U.S. to move away from "a dysfunctional, wasteful, bureaucratic system into a rational health-care system that guarantees coverage to everyone in a cost-effective way" is to introduce "Medicare for All," Sanders told The Washington Post. His bill, the Medicare for All Act of 2017, would replace the current health-care system with a public system paid for by higher taxes, covering everything from prescription drugs to mental health treatment to eye care, with no co-payments. Employers would pay higher taxes, but would no longer have to cover health insurance for workers, and there would still be private insurers for people who wanted elective treatments like plastic surgery. Doctors would be reimbursed by the government.

Sanders told the Post he thinks Americans would be fine with paying more in taxes in exchange for no longer having to fight with health-care companies. He admitted this isn't a cheap proposition, but pointed out that the average American paid $11,365 in taxes while the average Canadian shelled out $14,693, but the average American also paid twice as much in health care as the average Canadian. Read more about the proposal, and the Republicans who are excited to challenge it, at The Washington Post. Catherine Garcia

July 31, 2017

Despite Senate Republicans failing three times last week to pass a health-care bill, President Trump is urging the GOP to keep pushing for a plan — something Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) says just can't happen right now.

"There's just too much animosity and we're too divided on health care," he told Reuters Monday. "I think we ought to acknowledge that we can come back to health care afterwards but we need to move ahead on tax reform." Trump campaigned on replacing ObamaCare with something he said would be better, and Hatch said he thinks he'll be telling the Trump administration, along with House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), that it's time to move on.

Trump has also been threatening to cut off the ObamaCare exchange subsidies, and Hatch said lawmakers would need to appropriate those payments. "I'm for helping the poor, always have been," he told Reuters. "And I don't think they should be bereft of health care." Catherine Garcia

July 27, 2017

House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) released a statement Thursday evening saying the House is open to working with the Senate to come up with a health-care bill to repeal ObamaCare, but the "burden remains on the Senate to demonstrate that it is capable of passing something that keeps our promise, as the House has already done."

His statement came after Republicans Sens. Lindsey Graham (S.C.), John McCain (Ariz.), and Ron Johnson (Wis.) shared their concerns over the Republicans' "skinny repeal" bill, which it is believed would get rid of ObamaCare's individual and employer mandate and medical device tax; the text has not been released yet. The senators said they were worried if the bill passes in the Senate, it would go to the House without the two chambers coming together to amend it.

This week, Senate Republicans tried to pass a bill that would immediately replace ObamaCare and another that repealed it over two years, and the "skinny repeal" is their latest attempt to get a bill through without needing to have the House approve it as well. Catherine Garcia

July 25, 2017

The Senate on Tuesday night rejected a modified version of Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's plan to repeal and replace ObamaCare.

Nine Republicans joined the Democrats in voting against the bill, and with a final total of 43 in favor and 57 against, the measure did not receive the 60 votes necessary to pass. Earlier in the day, the Senate split 50-50 on voting to begin debate on a health-care bill, and Vice President Mike Pence broke the tie, with the motion passing.

On Wednesday, the Senate is set to vote on an amendment similar to a 2015 bill passed by the Senate to repeal ObamaCare, which was ultimately vetoed by former President Barack Obama; this proposal is expected to fail. Catherine Garcia

July 18, 2017

Sen. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) and Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) announced Monday evening they would vote against the Senate GOP's plan to repeal and replace ObamaCare, the Better Care Reconciliation Act. Combined with "no" votes from Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), Monday's announcements sunk the bill.

Intriguingly, as McClatchy reports, Moran was the first lawmaker to formally propose nixing ObamaCare some seven years ago. In his statement on the BCRA, Moran maintained he still supports that plan. "There are serious problems with ObamaCare," he said, "and my goal remains what it has been for a long time: to repeal and replace it."

Moran objects to the BCRA on the grounds that it "fails to repeal the Affordable Care Act or address health care's rising costs," as well as the fact that the bill was spawned via a "closed-door process." Bonnie Kristian

July 17, 2017

The Republicans' latest stab at a health-care bill once again doesn't have enough votes to pass, and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said Monday night that it's "time for a new approach" when it comes to repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act.

Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) and Sen. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) announced together that they will not support the current version of the bill, the Better Care Reconciliation Act, joining Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) in their opposition. Not long after, Graham tweeted that the "best hope for innovative health care" involves "getting money and power out of Washington and returning it to the states."

ObamaCare embraces a "one-size-fits-all approach," he continued, before touting his own proposal, which he put together with Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.). "Graham-Cassidy is the conservative approach to solving the problems ObamaCare created," he said. His proposal calls for repealing the individual and employer mandates instituted under ObamaCare, and retaining the requirements covering pre-existing conditions. The medical device tax would be eliminated, but other taxes would stay, and federal dollars spent on health insurance would be block-granted to the states. "Like no two patients are the same, no two states' health-care needs are the same," Graham said. "Solution that works in California may not work in Virginia." Graham never came out and said he was a "no" vote on the Senate GOP health-care bill, and now that there aren't enough votes for it to pass, he doesn't have to. Catherine Garcia

June 21, 2017

During a rally in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, Wednesday night reminiscent of his time on the campaign trail, President Trump brought up the GOP's proposal to repeal and replace ObamaCare, saying, "I hope we are going to surprise you with a really good plan."

Trump revealed that he has been "talking about a plan with heart," adding that he told Republican senators, "Add some money to it!" He acknowledged that the Republicans have a "very slim" majority in the Senate and "basically can't afford to lose anybody" when it comes time to vote. "If we could just get a few votes from the Democrats, it would be so easy and so beautiful," he said. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) plans on finally letting senators see a draft of the bill on Thursday morning. Catherine Garcia

June 13, 2017

President Trump is sitting down to lunch with 13 Republican senators on Tuesday to "discuss the status" of the GOP ObamaCare replacement bill, Politico Playbook reports. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is reportedly gunning for a June vote to repeal ObamaCare, although some insiders tell Politico that the target has slipped into July.

"Senate Republicans are aggressively trying to rein in expectations for their ObamaCare repeal effort, wary of blowing a deadline or falling short of 50 votes on a promise that has driven the GOP's political strategy for much of the past decade," Politico writes.

Republicans are navigating tricky terrain, especially as ObamaCare remains largely popular with most Americans:

Senate Republicans additionally do not plan to publicly release their draft health-care bill, two senior Senate GOP aides said Monday. Read the full scoop at Politico. Jeva Lange

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