FIrst look at the Senate health bill

The Washington Post has gotten a first look at a draft of the Senate health bill which it says was circulating Wednesday afternoon. The new draft is described as similar to the House version with a few differences that may make it more palatable to moderates in the Senate:

Moderates who are on the fence about whether to support the Obamacare overhaul are likely to be pleased at the bill’s approach to subsidies because they would be based on financial need, potentially preserving coverage for more people who got insured under the ACA.

Subsidies are currently available to Americans earning up to 400 percent of the federal poverty level. Starting in 2020, that threshold would be lowered to 350 percent under the Senate bill — but anyone below that line could get the subsidies if they’re not eligible for Medicaid.

Yet the Senate bill would go farther than the House version in its approach to cutting Medicaid spending. In 2025, the measure would tie federal spending on the program to an even slower growth index than the one used in the House bill. That move could prompt states to reduce the size of their Medicaid programs.

The Senate bill would also repeal all of the Obamacare-related taxes with the exception of the Cadillac tax on generous health plans. A provision to prevent subsidies from going to health plans that cover abortion has been removed. That’s because the Senate’s parliamentarian warned that the provision could not be passed under reconciliation. From the Washington Examiner:

An effort to tie abortion restrictions to tax credits in a healthcare bill doesn’t meet Senate rules according to the chamber’s parlimentarian, two senators said on Wednesday.

Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, told reporters Wednesday she believes the tax credits didn’t meet the rules for reconciliation, which is the process by which Republicans are using to try to pass a healthcare bill with a simple majority to avoid a Democratic filibuster. Sen. Thom Tillis, R-N.C. said the same.

Reconciliation allows the GOP to pass the bill with just 51 votes but the bill must omit anything “extraneous” to budgetary matters.

Senator Mitch McConnell has suggested he would like to bring the bill up for a vote next week. A score of the bill from the Congressional Budget Office could be available as soon as Friday.