Senate Republicans release new health bill

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Ky., joined by Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., left, the Republican Conference chairman, meets with reporters after a closed-door Republican strategy session, Tuesday, July 11, 2017, on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

WASHINGTON - Following the announcement of postponing the Senate's August recess, Republicans released their new health bill Thursday afternoon.

The Senate Republican leadership said they plan to bring the bill up for a vote as early as next week.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) needs 51 votes to bring the bill to the floor, which means he can only afford to lose three members of the Republican conference.

As of Thursday afternoon, at least three senators indicated that they are leaning towards a no vote on bringing the bill to the floor.

Senators Susan Collins (Maine), Rand Paul (Ky.) and Rob Portman (Ohio) told reporters that the bill still has to be changed in order to get their support.

The new draft of the BCRA has been sent to the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) which will analyze the impact of the bill. The first CBO analysis showed that 22 million people would lose health care insurance by 2026 under the health care bill and the federal deficit would be reduced by $321 billion.

Some of the major changes in the new draft of the Better Care Reconciliation Act (BCRA) include:

Cruz-Lee Amendment: Conservative Senators Ted Cruz (Texas) and Mike Lee (Utah) have been working on a provision that would allow insurance companies to offer cheaper plans with less coverage, if they also provide at least one Obamacare-compliant plan.

The Consumer Freedom Option is intended to provide states and consumers with greater insurance options, but critics warn that offering cheaper plans to healthier people will drive up costs for sicker, higher-risk individuals.

Earlier on Thursday, Sen. Lee said the amendment has not been included in the new draft, but a provision similar to it was added. After the Republican huddle to discuss the changes in the health care bill, Sen. Cruz confirmed that the Consumer Freedom Option was included.

Additional Subsidies: On top of the $112 billion insurance market stabilization fund in the first draft, the new bill adds another $70 billion to help offset high insurance costs for at-risk populations. The money will be spent across ten years.

The bill also adds $50 billion to a short-term stabilization fund to prevent coverage lapses and disruptions to the insurance market.

Preserving Tax on High-Earners: The original BCRA would have ended almost all of the Obamacare taxes, including taxes on wealthy Americans. The new draft preserves the net investment income tax, the additional Medicare Health Insurance (HI) Tax.

By maintaining the net investment income tax alone, the GOP freed up $172 billion that is going towards state and market subsidies, additional Medicaid support and a $45 billion opioid addiction fund.

Before the new draft was released, Sens. Lindsey Graham (R- S.C.) and Bill Cassidy (R- La.) announced the creation of an alternative health care bill with the promise of funding to states.

Republicans were meeting behind closed doors following the release of the bill.

This is a breaking news story and will be updated.

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