The yet-to-be-revealed repeal and replace bill for the Affordable Care Act could be released as soon as Monday night, Republican lawmakers say.
During an appearance at a health policy conference hosted by the Federation of American Hospitals, Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) said she and her colleagues worked all through last week and weekend on the bill. Blackburn expects it will be released as early as Monday.
The hotly anticipated bill will end the individual and employer mandates, restore funding cut from the Medicare disproportionate-share hospital program and roll back both the insurance and medical device taxes, Blackburn said. She also said there would be some sort of freeze on Medicaid expansion, but she did not provide details during her remarks.
The bill will also call for use of refundable tax credits to fund health savings accounts, Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.)said at the event.
None of these ideas are the ones that insurance industry leaders said they needed to hear to determine if they will stay in the individual market. Payers wanted the individual mandate to continue as long as there was an expectation that people with pre-existing conditions can gain coverage. They also wanted the continuation of subsidies to help lower income individuals buy insurance.
There had been reports Monday that the unveiling was called off following an unfavorable CBO score, but none of the Republican lawmakers at the FAH event confirmed the rumors during their remarks.
Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), the Democratic whip, said he and his Democrat colleagues have yet to see the law, but they have heard the bill markup will take place on Wednesday in the House Energy and Commerce and Ways and Means committees.
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), who was also at the event, said he believes the tax credits will be helpful for lower income individuals to buy insurance. But the House's conservative Freedom Caucus opposes the idea, calling it “Obamacare lite" and an entitlement program.
On Monday, Rubio said Republicans will need to develop some policy option to help low-income individuals buy insurance. If they don't fund tax credits, the federal government will be on the hook to help cover the inevitable increase in uncompensated-care costs incurred by hospitals.
“One way or the other, we're going to pay for people's healthcare,” Rubio said.
Ultimately it could be as long as two years before Republicans fully repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, Blackburn said, noting that legislative and rulemaking activities will happen in waves to minimize disruptions for consumers.
As they move forward, Rubio said it will critical that hospitals and other stakeholders weigh in on changes to the bill.
“A lot of things that may have looked good on a PowerPoint don't work in the real world,” Rubio said.