Local senators sound off on what comes next with health care bill

Posted at 5:51 PM, May 05, 2017
and last updated 2017-05-05 18:51:04-04

House Republicans narrowly passed their plan to replace Obamacare on Thursday, calling it the American Health Care Act. Lawmakers say it'll likely see changes in the Senate.

The House plan does away with Obamacare regulations, however estimates show dramatic Medicaid cuts and the possibility of about 24 million people losing their coverage.

That worries local senators of both parties.

"I don't know details, but I'm genuinely concerned, and good news from my perspective, the Senate isn't even starting with that version of the bill. We're going to start, in a sense, from scratch," Kansas Republican Sen. Jerry Moran said.

Missouri Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill said she is willing to work with any lawmaker who protects pre-existing conditions and doesn't cut Medicaid.

"I want to leave the door open, that we can negotiate and figure out a way forward, but not what they did in the House. Not a big tax cut bill for the wealthy paid for with Medicaid cuts," McCaskill said.

Many critics, including the Congressional Budget Office, say the House passed the bill too quickly without a cost estimate.

Moran said that's the first thing the Senate needs to look at.

"I think we first start with a report from our budget folks who analyze what this bill does, how much it costs, and what the benefits and detriments are," Moran said.

What both McCaskill and Moran can agree on is bipartisan participation in the Senate.

"[Republicans] haven't even talked to us yet. Every single bit of this is being done behind closed doors, with a small group of Republican leaders and people from the White House," McCaskill said.

Moran said he's afraid Democrats won't budge on keeping Obamacare the same, but acknowledges the need for both parties to be involved.

"Although it doesn't appear to be the direction we're going, I'm still advocating for having hearings, having expert witnesses coming in, testifying in front of the appropriate committees in the Senate. Allow senators to offer amendments, votes to be taken," Moran said.

Moran couldn't give an idea of which amendments he'd offer, but knows there are key concepts he wants to address.

"What will happen in my life over the next several weeks will be conversations with physicians, with Kansans, patients, various groups who care about healthcare, the disability community," Moran said.

"We should be having hearings in the health committee. We should be having hearings in finance committee, so not only can senators learn what they're proposing, but that the American people can," McCaskill said.

The process is expected to take more than a month in the Senate before they come to a conclusion on their version of the AHCA.