The health-care bill Senate Republicans plan to unveil on Thursday likely will make substantial changes to Medicaid and cut taxes for wealthy Americans and businesses. It will eliminate mandates and relax regulations on insurance plans, and it will reduce the federal government’s role in health care.
What it won’t do, however, is actually repeal the Affordable Care Act.
Lost in the roiling debate over health care over the last several weeks is that Republicans have all but given up on their longstanding repeal-and-replace pledge. The slogan lives on in the rhetoric used by many GOP lawmakers and the Trump White House but not in the legislation the party is advancing. That was true when House Republicans passed the American Health Care Act last month, which rolled back key parts of Obamacare but was not a full repeal. And it is even more true of the bill the Senate has drafted in secret, which reportedly will stick closer to the underlying structure of the law.
“We’re amending Obamacare. We’re not killing it,” a frustrated Jason Pye of the conservative group FreedomWorks told me earlier this month as the murky outlines of the Senate proposal were beginning to emerge.
Like the House bill, the Senate plan is expected to repeal the ACA’s employer and individual insurance mandates and most if not all of the tax increases Democrats levied to pay for new programs and benefits. But the Senate bill likely will only begin a years-long phase-out of the ACA’s Medicaid expansion in 2020 rather than end it as the House measure does.