Republican U.S. senators have finally unveiled their version of a health care bill aimed at repealing the Affordable Care Act, former President Barack Obama's signature legislative achievement.
After weeks of secret meetings, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell initially released the proposal Thursday only to Republican Senators before publishing the 142 page measure online.
"We have to act," McConnell said on the Senate floor, and added "Obamacare is a direct attack on the middle class."
The legislation was crafted as a compromise between the current health care law, commonly known as Obamacare, and a measure approved by the House of Representatives last month, according to Republican aides and lobbyists who reviewed the bill Wednesday.
The bill would cut federal funding for Medicaid, a state-based program for low-income people, abolish taxes on the wealthy, and terminate funding for Planned Parenthood, a women's health care provider, according to the proposal.
Aides and lobbyists who reviewed the draft say it largely reflects the House version, although there are notable differences. The House measure links federal insurance subsidies to age, while the Senate version bases subsidies on income. The Senate bill ends an expansion of Medicaid funding for states more slowly than the House legislation but imposes larger long-term reductions on the program. The Senate proposal also drops the House's waivers authorizing states to allow health insurers to increase premiums on some people with pre-existing health conditions.
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Trump pushing for approval
President Donald Trump said at a White House technology event Thursday he hoped the Senate would approve a health care plan "with heart." Trump previously described the House version "mean" in a private setting.
Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer criticized the proposal on the Senate floor, saying "We live in the wealthiest country on earth. Surely we can do better than what the Republican health care bill promises."
The closed door meetings during which the Senate bill was crafted angered Democrats and some Republicans. Senate Democrats plan to protest the measure and request more time to review it than McConnell is intending to allow. Because no Democrats are expected to vote on the measure, Republicans are resorting to an accelerated approval process in an attempt to avoid filibusters.
McConnell hopes the package will garner enough support from moderate and conservative Republicans for a vote he wants to have next week. Republicans familiar with the effort said more work must be done to get the 50 Republican votes needed for approval, with Vice President Mike Pence poised to cast the tiebreaker vote.
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23 million would lose coverage
An estimated 23 million people could lose their health care under the plan narrowly passed by the House, according to the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office.
Thursday's unveiling is the latest step in a seven year push by Republicans to dismantle Obamacare.