Utah Senators Split On Republican Health Bill | KUER 90.1

Utah Senators Split On Republican Health Bill

Jun 22, 2017

On Thursday the U.S. Senate released its replacement bill for Obamacare. It was met with mixed responses, including from Utah’s Senators who helped write it.

The bill is called the Better Care Reconciliation Act. Both of Utah’s Senators, Orrin Hatch and Mike Lee were part of the 12-man group that privately wrote the bill.

Senator Hatch supports the draft version but by midday on Thursday Lee had issued a statement saying he can’t vote for it yet. 

Lee wrote, “It does not appear this draft as written will accomplish the most important promise that we made to Americans: to repeal Obamacare and lower their healthcare costs.”

The bill would eliminate the requirement that Americans or their employers be required to buy health insurance. It would also offer $2 billion in state grants to address the opioid epidemic.

But according to an analysis from Kaiser Health News, the Senate version would offer stricter limits on Medicaid funding than the House version. That could mean states would have to raise taxes to pay for the program or else reduced eligibility or services.

During his monthly news conference on KUED, Governor Gary Herbert advocated for a lump sum of money from the federal government to pay for Medicaid, called a block grant.

"For me a block grant would be the best of all worlds. Just give me the money, we’ll figure it out and do what we need to do in Utah," Herbert said. 

In the coming years, states could also change what are considered essential health benefits like maternity care and chronic-disease management, which insurers currently have to cover. 

Senate Republicans have been under fire for writing this legislation in private. But in a pre-recorded statement, Senator Hatch said the upcoming vote will be fair.

"Everyone is going to see the bill. And everyone is going to get their chance to say their peace about it," Hatch said.

Republican Senators are planning to vote on the bill before their July 4th recess.