- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 28, 2017

Sen. Bill Cassidy of Louisiana said Sunday his chamber plans to outdo a House-passed health bill that would repeal and replace Obamacare but, according to estimates, would result in 23 million fewer people holding insurance a decade from now.

The Congressional Budget Office also said that while healthier Americans will see “significantly lower premiums” in states that waive the Affordable Care Act’s requirements on insurers, people with preexisting conditions could struggle to find affordable plans in those states, the CBO analysis said.

“The Senate product, I’m hopeful, will be more likely to address their needs,” the Louisiana Republican told “Fox News Sunday.”

Senators have been meeting behind closed doors to hash out a plan, but consensus remains elusive. Staff will begin drafting language over the Memorial Day break to kick-start negotiations when the chamber reconvenes the week of June 5.

Majority Leader Mitch McConnell cannot afford to lose more than two votes from his 52-seat majority and still pass a plan under fast-track budget rules that let the GOP avoid a Democratic filibuster.

President Trump took to Twitter on Sunday to imply that the federal government can make health care better by spending more money. Mr. Trump tweeted that “I suggest that we add more dollars to Healthcare and make it the best anywhere. ObamaCare is dead — the Republicans will do much better!”

It’s unclear how the extra dollars would be spent.

However, several senators from states that vastly expanded Medicaid under Obamacare want to rein in federal spending on the program more slowly than the House plan would, while Sen. John Thune of South Dakota is hashing out plans to make the GOP plan’s tax credits more generous for older and needy people who buy insurance on their own.

Senate Minority Whip Richard J. Durbin, Illinois Democrat, said his party is willing to negotiate if Republicans take repeal off the table, though he acknowledged that Obamacare isn’t perfect, as insurers struggle to make money and either raise their rates or quit the program altogether.

“I voted for it and it needs to be repaired,” Mr. Durbin told Fox.

Mr. Cassidy and Sen. Susan M. Collins, Maine Republican, have offered a plan that would let states either keep Obamacare or opt into a more conservative framework. Conservatives have derided the plan, saying they campaigned on promises to scrap the 2010 law, not let it linger in parts of the country.

“A conservative thinks that power should return to individuals and the states,” Mr. Cassidy countered Sunday. “If a blue state wishes to do a blue thing, God bless them.”

Mr. Durbin said he doesn’t like aspects of the Cassidy-Collins plan but that it’s a good-faith effort by the two GOP senators.

“I’m sorry the two of them aren’t in the room with the 13 apostles that Sen. McConnell has chosen” to work out a plan, he said, referring to the Senate GOP’s working group on health care.

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