Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has unveiled the newest version of a bill to replace many provisions of the Affordable Care Act.
Negotiations over the much-anticipated bill were held in private, with even some Republicans like Sen. Rand Paul criticizing the secretive process “with little time to fully evaluate the proposal.”
Paul issued a statement Thursday saying he wasn’t ready to vote in favor of the new bill because it doesn’t fully repeal Obamacare.
“It does not keep our promises to the American people,” Paul said. “I will oppose it coming to the floor in its current form, but I remain open to negotiations.”
A vote on the measure is expected next week.
If no Democrats vote in favor of the bill, McConnell can only afford to lose two votes out of the 52 Republicans in the Senate. In case of a tie, Vice President Mike Pence would have the option to cast a tie-breaker.
The proposal would by 2024 phase out funding for states like Kentucky that elected to expand their Medicaid programs under Obamacare.
It would also end the requirement for people to buy health insurance, and employers of a certain size would no longer have to provide coverage for employees. It would eliminate taxes on the wealthy and insurance companies, but keep a provision that allows parents to keep their children on their insurance plans until age 26.
During a speech on the Senate Floor Thursday, McConnell said the plan was the product of dozens of meetings.
“It’s time to act,” McConnell said. “Because Obamacare is a direct attack on the middle class and American families deserve better than its failing status quo.”
He also chided Democrats for indicating they wouldn’t support the Republican-crafted plan.
“They can choose to keep standing by as their failing law continues to collapse and hurt more Americans, but I hope they will join us instead to bring more relief to families who have struggled under Obamacare for far too long,” McConnell said during his Senate remarks.
U.S. Rep. John Yarmuth, a Democrat from Louisville, criticized the proposal for its tax breaks and changes to Medicaid.
“Any senator who votes for this bill is clearly prioritizing a meaningless political victory over the health and livelihoods of the American people,” Yarmuth said in a statement.
McConnell blames the Affordable Care Act for rising health insurance premiums and says insurance companies pulling out of Obamacare markets show that the program is not working.
In Kentucky, five companies that sold insurance on Kentucky’s health exchange in 2016 pulled out of the program for 2017. The Kentucky Department of Insurance approved requests by the remaining companies to charge higher premiums.
The proposal, which is dubbed the “Better Care Reconciliation Act,” would change how states fund their Medicaid programs by shifting to block grants or per capita caps on spending.
The bill would also let states apply waivers to disregard some mandates of the Affordable Care Act, like the law’s ban on insurance companies charging higher premiums for people with pre-existing medical conditions.
After the bill was announced, videos showed protesters being forcibly removed from outside McConnell’s Capitol office.
“U.S. Capitol Police handles security in the Capitol complex,” said McConnell press secretary, Stephanie Penn, when asked for comment about the protests.