Senate Republicans on Thursday released a revised version of the Better Care Reconciliation Act, their plan to replace the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.
The new version comes after the Congressional Budget Office found that the original BCRA would in the next decade increase the uninsured population by 22 million over what it would otherwise be. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell had hoped for a vote before July 4, but was forced to delay that because he couldn’t garner the 50 votes he needed among the 52 GOP senators.
The new bill makes some big changes, but also leaves some major parts of the original BCRA intact. Below is the text of the Senate’s new version (and you can compare it to the old version, which can be found here).
Here are some of the change that this new version of the bill would make to the original BCRA:
Health savings accounts will be able to pay for premiums. Under IRS rules, people with high-deductible plans are eligible for health savings accounts (HSAs), accounts into which people can put money for health care expenses tax-free. Under this bill, people would for the first time be able to use that money for premiums. Americans’ deposits in HSAs have ballooned over the last decade, according to HSA consulting firm Devenir. However, those accounts also tend to benefit higher-income people more than others, as Kaiser Health News’ Michelle Andrews wrote in December — for example, richer people are more likely to have the extra money to sock away for health expenses.
More money for the opioid epidemic. The Senate’s initial bill offered $2 billion over 10 years. This version would offer $45 billion over 10 years, which is what Ohio GOP Sen. Rob Portman and West Virginia Sen. Shelley Moore Capito had requested at one point. However, some experts say $4.5 billion a year is nowhere near enough for combating America’s massive opioid epidemic, as the New York Times reported in June.
A new CBO score on the bill is expected Monday or Tuesday. By the end of next week, there is likely to be a key procedural vote. That would put things on track for a final vote the following week.
Meanwhile, Republicans Bill Cassidy of Louisiana and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina released an alternative plan Thursday morning.
With reporting from Arnie Seipel.