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‘Skinny’ Obamacare Repeal Bill Takes Shape

Language still fluid hours before an expected vote

Texas Sen. John Cornyn, right, says repealing the individual and employer mandates in the 2010 health care law unites the GOP conference. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
Texas Sen. John Cornyn, right, says repealing the individual and employer mandates in the 2010 health care law unites the GOP conference. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

A “skinny” bill to repeal portions of the 2010 health care law crafted by Senate Republican leadership behind closed doors is starting to take shape, but the language remains fluid hours before an expected vote on the measure.

The current proposal would repeal the individual mandate, partially repeal the employer mandate and defund Planned Parenthood for one year, a Senate GOP aide said.

“We’re trying to achieve consensus, does that sound familiar?,” Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn said when asked whether there is a draft of the skinny bill. “The one thing that unifies our conference is the repeal of the individual mandate and the employer mandate, because those are two of the biggest overreaches of Obamacare and are essential to Obamacare’s functioning.”

Asked if the full employer mandate would be repealed under the current draft, the Texas Republican said “scoring is an issue so how much we can do is going to be subject to scoring concerns.”

Republicans, under budget rules, needs to achieve at least $133 billion in savings in whatever proposal they end up trying to advance.

Currently, the GOP aide said, the draft would also include a provision to give states more flexibility to use a waiver program included in the health care law.

The Senate parliamentarian provided guidance Thursday that said the measure — which could allow states to waive out of requirements in the law such as the mandates on services insurers must cover — would partially violate Senate rules governing the fast-track budget procedure known as reconciliation, which Republicans are using to advance a bill with a simple majority support.

“Today’s decision confirms that Senate Republicans cannot use their partisan, go-it-alone reconciliation process to water down key consumer safeguards like protection for people with pre-existing conditions and essential health benefits that Americans count on today,” Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon, the top Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee, said in a statement. “This decision upholds that intent and calls into question whether other regulatory changes that amount to anti-consumer schemes will fly under the partisan reconciliation process.”

Another GOP aide said the current proposal would also boost funding for community health centers and repeal the law’s prevention fund.

At the moment, a repeal of an excise tax on medical device manufacturers is not set to be included in the “skinny” bill, though discussions are very fluid at the moment, a number of Republican aides said.

A source from the medical device industry also said the measure could be brought up as an amendment to the legislation when it comes to the Senate floor for a vote.

It’s unclear whether Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has the votes to advance a skinny bill, which is being used as a mechanism to get to conference with the House and try to craft a broader repeal-and-replace measure.

Republican members said they expected to receive additional guidance at Thursday’s GOP policy lunch.

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