Texas Senators Cruz, Cornyn React to Senate Health Care Bill

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz is among several Republican lawmakers standing in the way of the Senate health care bill from clearing the chamber.

Cruz says he's a "no" but wants to get to a yes, adding that the bill does not go far enough to lower premiums.

Sens. Rand Paul of Kentucky, Mike Lee of Utah, Ron Johnson of Wisconsin and Dean Heller of Nevada joined Cruz in arguing the measure missed delivering a GOP promise to Americans "to repeal Obamacare and lower their health care costs."

"That should be the central issue for Republicans – repealing Obamacare and making health care more affordable," Cruz said. "Because of this, I cannot support it as currently drafted, and I do not believe it has the votes to pass the Senate."

Texas Sen. John Cornyn tells NBC 5 that this bill is a discussion draft, a place to start.

"We are having conversations literally minute by minute, hour by hour with colleagues to try to come up with a consensus bill that will get the support of at least 50 Republicans," Cornyn said.

Cornyn said he is encouraged that Cruz says he wants to get to a yes on the bill.

"Basically what we are trying to do is four different things. We are trying to stabilize the insurance markets, which are now in disarray – premiums have gone through the roof, deductibles are so high that people basically don't have effective insurance, and insurance companies are pulling out of the markets – so we try to stabilize the markets, and we try to bring premiums down as much as we can by providing people more choices. In other words, not a government-approved health care policy but one rather that they want, that serves their needs at a price they can afford. That is Sen. Cruz's principle concern, one that I share," Cornyn said.

"The third is we want to make sure that we continue to protect people against pre-existing conditions. This has been a big issue, particularly with regard to the House bill, and we maintain the law that it exists today on protecting people with pre-existing conditions. And then finally what we do is we put Medicaid, which is a safety net for low income Americans, on a sustainable path, and we give more authority to the states to manage health care delivery to the Medicaid population, like we do in Texas, for example," Cornyn added.

Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., wants to push the package through the Senate next week, and will succeed if he can limit defections to two of the chamber's 52 Republicans.

McConnell indicated he was open to changes before it reaches the Senate floor, but he said it was time to act.

The Senate bill would phase out extra money Obama's law provides to 31 states that agreed to expand coverage under the federal-state Medicaid program. Those additional funds would continue through 2020, then gradually fall and disappear entirely in 2024.

The measure largely uses people's incomes as the yardstick for helping those without workplace coverage to buy private insurance. That would focus the aid more on people with lower incomes than the House legislation, which bases its subsidies on age.

The bill would let states get waivers to ignore some coverage requirements under Obama's law, such as specific health services insurers must now cover.

The bill has not yet been scored by the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office. The CBO said that under the House bill, 23 million fewer people would have coverage by 2026. The budget office analysis of the Senate measure is expected early next week.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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