Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell slipped more backroom deals into the Senate healthcare bill to entice more moderate senators to vote for the bill.
Republicans have frequently criticized Democrats for bribing so many senators to pass Obamacare seven years ago, even though McConnell continues to employ the same tactics to pass their Senate healthcare bill.
The House-passed bill, otherwise known as the American Health Care Act (AHCA), included an amendment known as the “Buffalo Bribe.” Rep. Chris Collins sponsored the measure to prevent state governments from forcing local counties to contribute to a state’s Medicaid program. The Buffalo bribe appeared in the Senate healthcare bill, known as the Better Care Reconciliation Act (BCRA), which would make the bill easier to pass in the House if the Senate passes it.
The BCRA, like the House’s AHCA, places per capita caps on Medicaid spending and winds down Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion after seven years. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) pushed for the revised BCRA to allow for exceptions to the caps on Medicaid spending in the event of an emergency, such as the Zika virus outbreak in Florida.
The Senate bill also changes the funding formula for hospitals based upon a state’s number of uninsured citizens, rather than the number of Medicaid enrollees that the original BCRA used. States that did not expand Medicaid such as Florida would benefit from this change.
Under the new BCRA, states that expanded Medicaid can now include their expanded population if they chose to block grant their Medicaid spending. Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson lobbied the Senate leadership to include this change to Medicaid block grants.
Mitch McConnell delayed the BCRA’s vote for next week after Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) needed to undergo minor surgery to remove a minor blood clot above his left eye. Sens. Rand Paul (R-KY) and Susan Collins (R-ME) came out against the bill, which means that McCain’s absence would have prevented the bill from moving through the Senate.
The BCRA’s delay would allow the Senate leadership to gain crucial time to gather more support for the bill. The new BCRA retains Obamacare’s net investment tax and the Medicare “high-income tax,” which means that McConnell could have another $100 billion in kickbacks to give senators in exchange for their support of the Senate leadership’s healthcare bill.