Uncertainty for Healthcare Industry
The bill’s defeat still leaves uncertainty in the healthcare industry, with insurers not sure how long the Trump administration will continue to make billions of dollars in Obamacare payments that help cover out-of-pocket medical expenses for low-income Americans.
Insurers have until September to finalize their 2018 health plans in many Obamacare marketplaces.
Some insurers, including Humana and Aetna, have pulled out of such markets, citing the uncertainty over the payments. Others have raised rates by double digits and said that they will need to raise rates another 20% if the uncertainty does not ease. Anthem Inc., which has already left three of the 14 states where it sells Blue Cross Blue Shield plans, said this week it might pull out of more. After the House passed a bill to repeal and replace Obamacare in May, McConnell grappled to get Senate Republicans to agree on their version of the bill. Hard-line conservatives wanted a bill that would substantially gut Obamacare, while moderates were concerned over legislation that could deprive millions of people of their healthcare coverage.
Republicans hold a 52–48 majority in the 100-seat Senate and could afford to lose support from only two Republican senators, with Vice President Mike Pence ready to cast a tie-breaking vote on the Senate floor.
Drama over McCain
As the vote on the skinny bill approached, all eyes in the Senate chamber were on Sen. McCain. The 2008 Republican presidential nominee flew back from Arizona earlier in the week after being diagnosed this month with brain cancer. McCain, an 80-year-old former prisoner of war in Vietnam who tangled with Trump during the 2016 election campaign and was disparaged by him, won praise for this from the president.
McCain, who has long been known for his independent streak, delivered a rousing speech on Tuesday calling for cooperation between the parties and then cast a decisive vote in allowing the Senate to take up the healthcare bill.
Early on Friday, he sat on the Senate floor talking to Collins, Murkowski and Senator Jeff Flake (R-Az.).
Collins and Murkowski both voted this week against broader Republican healthcare proposals, and they were both known to have concerns about the pared-down proposal. Trump had criticized Murkowski, tweeting that she had let down the Republican Party and the country.
McCain was then approached before voting began by Pence and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.). Graham had said on Thursday he would support the skinny repeal bill after reassurances from House Speaker Paul Ryan that if passed it would move to a committee of House and Senate lawmakers for changes, rather than being approved outright by the House.