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Ted Cruz ‘Consumer Choice’ Amendment Could Save Senate Healthcare Bill

Senator Ted Cruz’s amendment to the Senate Better Care Reconciliation Act (BCRA) could save the bill’s prospects of passing through the Senate.

Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) will continue to push for an amendment that would allow health insurers to sell plans that do not comply with Obamacare insurance regulations if they sell plans that do comply with those regulations. Cruz’s amendment would allow insurers to sell more flexible and affordable health insurance plans.

Conservative leaders such as Freedom Caucus chair Mark Meadows (R-NC) have endorsed the Cruz plan, citing the amendment’s effort to offer more affordable health care plans. Meadows told reporters, “If the Cruz consumer choice amendment gets there, yes I can support it without the MacArthur amendment in there, because I think it gives everybody some options.”

“Right now I’m looking at the Cruz consumer choice amendment as the primary vehicle that makes the most sense to me,” Meadows said, “and I applaud him for stepping out,” Meadows added.

Meadows’ endorsement serves as an important stamp of approval, as the House would have to approve the Senate BCRA if it passes through the upper chamber. The MacArthur amendment allowed states to waive Obamacare regulations such as community ratings and essential health benefits, a measure that Meadows and former Tuesday Group co-chair Tom MacArthur (R-NJ) pushed to lower premiums. The amendment galvanized enough support for the House-passed American Health Care Act (AHCA) to allow the bill to pass through the House.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) will reportedly send two revised versions of the BCRA to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) to analyze, one with the Cruz amendment and one without the measure. The original CBO report for the BCRA estimated that 22 million more Americans would not have health insurance under the BCRA while reducing the deficit by $321 billion over the next ten years. The BCRA would lower average premiums by 20 percent.

The Cruz amendment could convince conservative senators to support the bill. Conservative senators such as Rand Paul (R-KY), Mike Lee (R-UT), and Ron Johnson (R-WI) oppose the bill for the bill’s slow rollback of Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion and failing to lower premiums for many Americans.

Sen. Lee appeared to have endorsed the idea behind the Cruz amendment. Lee wrote in a Medium post that, “For all my frustrations about the process and my disagreements with the substance of [the Better Care Reconciliation Act], I would still be willing to vote for it if it allowed states and/or individuals to opt-out of the Obamacare system free-and-clear to experiment with different forms of insurance, benefits packages, and care provision options.”

Republican leadership met with the Senate parliamentarian to figure out if the Cruz amendment could meet the requirements of budgetary reconciliation.

Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-TX) said, “We’re trying to help figure it out because there’s a lot of support for what he’s trying to do.”

Senator Cruz’s amendment appears to have support from outside conservative groups such as FreedomWorks, Club for Growth, and Heritage Action. Jim DeMint, former U.S. Senator and now a senior adviser to the Convention of States, said that the current BCRA does not repeal Obamacare but merely “tweaks around the edges.”

DeMint explained that the Cruz amendment remains promising.

“What Sen. Cruz and his allies would allow in his amendment would allow a private market to co-exist with a heavily regulated and subsidized federal insurance market,” he said. “This is not ideal by any means, but it would, perhaps, allow innovation, lower costs, a variety of product offerings to existing in many states.”

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