A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

McConnell defends private drafting of health bill; Rand opposes delaying end of Medicaid expansion

Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky defended Senate Republicans’ secret drafting of a new health-care law Tuesday, saying committee hearings that Democrats demand aren’t needed.

“Look, we’ve been dealing with this issue for seven years. It’s not a new thing. We’ve spent a lot of time on it,” McConnell told reporters. “Nobody’s hiding the ball here. You’re free to ask anyone anything.

“But there have been gazillions of hearings on this subject when [Democrats] were in the majority, when we were in the majority. We understand the issue very well and we are now coming up with a solution.”

Democrats continued their criticism.

Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul said he is opposed to delaying the rollback of the expansion of Medicaid

Michael McAuliff of Huffington Post reports, “Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) noted that McConnell had once been a strong advocate for transparency when Democrats passed Obamare after more than a year of hearings and 25 hours of debate on the Senate floor. Bennet quoted McConnell saying then: ‘Above all, he said, the American people, above all, they are tired of a process that shuts them out. They are tired of giant bills negotiated in secret, then jammed through on a party line vote in the middle of the night.'”

Bennet said, “If the process we had wasn’t enough . . . what they’re giving is really giving the back of their hand to the American people.”

Some Republican senators “say the process is hard to defend, but they have no choice if they want to keep their campaign promise to replace Obamacare,” Laura Litvan of Bloomberg News reports.

“We wrote a bill in the House, which nobody could amend,” Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina told her. “That’s not good. We’re trying to do it from a one-party perspective because no Democrat is willing to help us. But no, this is not the best way to do health care. But it’s the way we’re having to do it.”

Litvan writes, “Others say they fear senators and the public will have little time to understand a final proposal when and if it is released.

“I think we have to really take a look at this, and I think the American people need to take a look at it,” Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin told her.

“Some Republicans who have largely been left outside the deliberations say they can’t predict what they’ll do,” Litvan writes, quoting Sen. Susan Collins of Maine: “The emerging bill is considerably better than the House bill, but saying that it’s better doesn’t mean that it’s acceptable to me.”

The main sticking point for Republicans is the future of Medicaid, which Kentucky and most other states expanded with funding from the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. The House bill would have ended the expansion in 2020, but McConnell has proposed a phase-out through 2023.

Bob Bryan of Business Insider reports that conservative Sens. Rand Paul of Kentucky and Ted Cruz of Texas “have also come out against a slower phase-out of this funding, making a compromise more difficult” because only 52 of the 100 senators are Republicans. They need 50 votes, plus the tie-breaker by Vice President Mike Pence.

McConnell has said he wants the Senate to pass the bill before it leaves for the July 4 holiday recess, but he wouldn’t say Tuesday when it would pass.

“Well, you know, I’m not going to answer that with specificity,” he said. “Our goal is to move forward quickly. The status quo is unsustainable. Something has to be done. Something has to be done soon.”

Meanwhile, McAuliff reports, President Trump “reportedly told GOP senators in a meeting at the White House that the repeal bill passed by the House was ‘mean’.” The New York Times reported likewise, citing “four congressional aides who were were briefed on the discussion and spoke on the condition of anonymity.”

Politico reports Trump “made clear that the Senate needs to pass a bill that Republicans are able to more easily defend and is not viewed as an attack on Americans from low-income households, as the House bill has been portrayed by critics, the sources said.

He also advocated more robust tax credits for people who buy insurance on the individual market, a move that would increase the bill’s cost.”

From Kentucky Health News

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