Senate Will Not Release Draft of Health Care Bill Until It Receives a CBO Score

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J. Scott Applewhite/AP

Senate Republicans will finish writing their draft health care legislation this week, but upper-chamber lawmakers have no plans to unveil the bill before it receives a Congressional Budget Office (CBO) analysis.

According to an Axios report, two senior GOP aides stated, “We are still in discussions about what will be in the final product so it is premature to release any draft absent further member conversations and consensus.”

The Senate health working group will send its preliminary version to the CBO to evaluate its effects. Moderate senators remain worried about the House-passed bill’s effects on insurance coverage. The CBO report estimates that under the AHCA, roughly 23 million Americans will lose health insurance despite lower average health insurance premiums over the next ten years.

After the CBO releases their score of the draft bill, the Senate will continue to work on improving the bill once they have a baseline analysis of the bill’s implications.

Democrats chided Republicans for passing the AHCA through the House without a CBO score, leaving open the chance that if the CBO scored that the bill did not lower spending, the House would have to revote on the bill.

The Senate bill contrasts with the House-passed bill on several key planks. The Senate bill would cut Medicaid at a slower rate compared to the House’s American Health Care Act (AHCA) and offer more generous tax credits for older Americans. The Senate’s proposal would not allow insurers to set higher prices for people with pre-existing conditions compared to healthy people.

Senator Mike Lee (R-UT) serves as one member of the conservative wing of the upper chamber that continues to be wary of the Senate bill. Lee said during a recent ABC News interview:

Look, at the end of the day, if we are asked to vote on something that repeals Obamacare and that does so in a way that brings down the cost of health care for the American people, then that’s something I can probably vote for. If we bring forward something that doesn’t repeal Obamacare and doesn’t bring down the cost of health care that’s probably something I won’t be able to vote for.

It’s not yet clear what it is going to look like at the end of the day. I have some grave concerns about what we’re doing so far, concerns that if we don’t get in the right direction, if we don’t pull back this massive regulatory burden that has caused health care to become the most expensive single cost that the American people have, I’m going to be very worried about what it will do to our economy.

Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) said, “We promised the voters that we’d repeal Obamacare,” Paul said. “Instead, we want to repeal sort of a tiny bit of it and replace it with something that looks a lot like Obamacare.”

Conservatives hope to remove as many Obamacare regulations as possible in the Senate health care repeal bill, including Obamacare’s community ratings regulations. Community ratings stipulate that health insurers cannot change health insurance premiums based on one’s age, gender, or health status. The CBO reported that even reducing Obamacare’s regulations, including community ratings, would reduce average premiums by 20 percent.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) told President Donald Trump that the upper chamber might vote on the health care bill before the July 4th recess.

McConnell remains confident that they will soon take the proposed bill to the Senate floor. He said, “We’re getting close to having a proposal to whip and to take to the floor.”

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