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Senate Will Vote on Obamacare Repeal Only After Replacement Legislation Collapses

Variety logo Variety 7/18/2017 Ted Johnson
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WASHINGTON, D.C. — Senate Majority Mitch McConnell called it quits on efforts to find a replacement for Obamacare, and instead is calling for a vote on a repeal of the Affordable Care Act.

“Regretfully, it is now apparent that the effort to repeal and immediately replace the failure of Obamacare will not be successful,” McConnell said in a statement late on Monday, after two senators announced that they would not support Republican healthcare legislation, leaving him short of votes necessary to advance it.

Instead, McConnell is calling for a vote “in the coming days” for a repeal of the Affordable Care Act. He said that the rollback should be delayed by two years “to provide for a stable transition period to a patient-centered health care system that gives Americans access to quality, affordable care.”

President Trump tweeted out his support for such a move, although there are doubts that enough Republican senators would vote for a repeal only. McConnell seemed to be making a last-ditch effort to salvage long-held GOP hopes of rolling back President Barack Obama’s signature domestic initiative. He noted that Republicans voted for a repeal only in 2015, but that was when they knew that Obama would veto.

The GOP replacement legislation — dubbed “Trumpcare” — faced major doubts after Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) and Sen. Jerry Moran (R-Kansas) announced that they would not vote for a motion to begin debate on the bill, killing its prospects in its current form. Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) have already said they opposed the legislation. Those four votes left McConnell without enough votes to even begin debate.

“We should not put our stamp of approval on bad policy,” Moran said in a statement. “We must now start fresh with an open legislative process to develop innovative solutions that provide greater personal choice, protections for pre-existing conditions, increased access and lower overall costs for Kansas.”

McConnell delayed a vote on the legislation last month, after it was clear that he did not have the votes to pass it before the July 4 recess.

After he unveiled a revised version of the bill on Thursday, new questions were raised for its prospects after Sen. John McCain was hospitalized. McConnell announced yet another delay on Sunday.

Earlier on Monday, President Trump underscored the precarious prospects for the legislation when he commented on McCain’s health.

“We miss him. He’s a crusty voice in Washington. Plus, we need that vote,” Trump said.

An array of health industry groups, such as the largest lobbying organization for health insurers, have lined up against the plan, along with other organizations such as the AARP.

The revised plan unveiled last week includes a proposal from Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) that would allow an insurance carrier in a state to offer plans that do not comply with Obamacare’s coverage requirements, as long as the insurers offered a plan that did.

Critics say that the result would be a market in which younger, healthier people seek out cheaper plans, offering less coverage, while those with pre-existing conditions will need to buy ever-more expensive comprehensive plans. The Congressional Budget Office estimated that McConnell’s original legislation would leave 22 million people uninsured.

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