Updated on July 27 at 10:23 p.m. ET
Is the “skinny repeal” of the Affordable Care Act that is nearing a vote in the Senate a means to an end, or the end itself?
That is the crucial question that GOP senators are facing as they consider Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s latest—and likely final—proposal for rolling back Obamacare. Shortly before 10 p.m. on Thursday, just hours before a scheduled vote, McConnell introduced what Republicans are calling the Health Care Freedom Act, a bare-bones, eight-page bill that the majority leader said would “repeal the core pillars of Obamacare.”
The proposal might be small in size, but it would have a significant effect on the health-care system. It would eliminate the ACA’s individual insurance mandate permanently and its employer mandate for eight years, defund Planned Parenthood for a year, and allow states at least some flexibility to opt out of Obamacare’s requirement that insurers cover certain essential health benefits. It also delays implementation of an excise tax on medical devices, and in a win for conservatives, it increases contribution limits for health-savings accounts.
In a brief floor speech, McConnell signaled that the goal of the last-ditch effort was to launch negotiations on a final bill with the House. But unlike some Republicans, he extolled the policy merits of the plan on its own, suggesting he would be fine if it became law. “Passing this legislation will allow us to work with our colleagues in the House toward a final bill that can go to the president, repeal Obamacare, and undo its damage,” McConnell said.