- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 6, 2017

Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer blasted a health care proposal by conservative Sen. Ted Cruz as a “hoax” Thursday, hoping to blunt any momentum around the Texan’s idea to rally votes for the Republicans’ faltering push to repeal and replace Obamacare.

The congressional budget score is expected to score an amendment by Mr. Cruz that would let insurers offer plans that do not comply with Obamacare’s coverage regulations so long as they offer at least one plan that does.

Conservatives say allowing consumers to buy the type of coverage they want is the best way to drive down premiums, though opponents say consumers will pay less for skimpier benefits, while those who still want or need the type of robust coverage mandated by Obamacare will have to pay more.

Mr. Schumer, New York Democrat, joined those who said sicker Americans would be segmented to a pool with ever-rising costs, since healthier people will gravitate toward the cheaper, bare-bones plans.

“Americans with pre-existing conditions will almost certainly be left without access to affordable and quality health care, making this even worse than the House bill on this issue,” Mr. Schumer said. “The only way to truly improve our nation’s health care system is for the Trump administration to stop sabotaging the marketplaces and for Republicans to finally heed Democrats’ requests to come together and work in a bipartisan way.”

Conservatives, though, are warming to Mr. Cruz’s idea, saying if Republicans refuse to deliver an outright real bill, it would be the next best thing.

Moderate Republicans might balk at the plan, however, as rising costs for people with pre-existing conditions, especially if the CBO comes back with an ugly score.

The Cruz proposal could also be costly, since giving healthier people an off-ramp from the Obamacare markets “effectively turns the exchange into a high risk pool,” said Douglas Holtz-Eakin, president of the American Action Forum and former CBO director.

“High risk pools are expensive,” he said.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican, is already trying to mollify moderates worried about consumer protections and curtailing federal spending on Medicaid insurance for the poor.

He cannot afford to lose more than two votes from his 52-seat majority and still pass an Obamacare replacement plan.

Sen. John Hoeven of North Dakota became the latest Republican to reject the Senate bill as written, telling hospital executives in Grand Forks on Wednesday that he “doesn’t support the bill as it stands,” according to the Bismarck Tribune.

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