Senate Republicans working behind closed doors on their version of a healthcare bill have indicated to reporters it will have provisions for pre-existing conditions, The Hill reported Sunday.
Lawmakers also addressed other key components under discussion, giving some clue of what will be in their plan, including funds to stabilize the state exchanges, Medicaid expansion, tax credits, current taxes under Obamacare and funds to combat the nation's current opioid crisis.
Senators are looking to the House healthcare bill, the American Health Care Act, and considering pools as a way to ensure pre-existing conditions are covered in new legislation.
"We need to focus on getting people with pre-existing conditions [covered] while also lowering premiums," Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., told reporters Thursday.
"One of the ways you can do that is with something like the Maine high risk pool, that [Maine Sen.] Susan Collins has been a strong advocate for. The issue in our discussion is you have to make sure there's enough money in it ... There's some concern that the House bill, which is in the right direction, doesn't adequately fund the high risk pool [at] the level you would need it to be at to bring down the premium levels, because 5 percent of the patients is about 55 percent of the spending."
Senators are looking for ways to stabilize Obamacare exchanges, some of which have faltered as insurers have pulled coverage in certain states or greatly increased premiums. One proposal would fund reduction payments, offering discounts to insurers that cover low-income individuals.
"The payments will help to avoid the real possibility that millions of Americans will literally have zero options for insurance in the individual market in 2018," Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., said at a hearing Thursday.
Alexander also said senators were looking for a solution for individuals who live in counties with no insurer on the exchanges.
The Senate bill would slow down phasing out the Medicaid expansion under Obamacare, with various proposals to draw it out over three to five years.
"My hope is that a longer glide path with flexibility will give the states and the governors the ability to extend the coverage to the population," Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., told reporters this week.
Tax credits will get a boost with a plan to offer more tax credit help to people with low incomes and older Americans. Under a proposal by Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., eligibility for tax credits would be cut off for higher-income earners while offering more support for older people.
The Senate is considering keeping some taxes currently under Obamacare, at least for the short term.
"Certainly, there's an agreement that you eliminate every tax that has to do with increasing the costs of insurance premiums — so the health insurance tax, the medical device tax, the prescription drug tax — there is some question about what you do with the taxes related to high income individuals, and that's part of the debate," Barrasso said.
A Senate proposal under consideration would increase and target funding for opioid addiction.
"In addition to my efforts to give governors more time and flexibility to adjust to a new system, I'm working with my colleagues to provide governors with a dedicated new funding stream to ensure those using expanded Medicaid resources to treat their addiction can continue to receive treatment as they work to get back on their feet," Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, said in a statement to the Columbus Dispatch this week.
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