The Senate bill would provide money to stabilize the individual insurance market, allotting $15 billion per year in 2018 and 2019 and $10 billion per year in 2020 and 2021.
The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has estimated that the House bill would kick 23 million people off their healthcare plans. The CBO is expected to weigh in on the Senate draft bill early next week.
As lawmakers made speeches about the legislation on the Senate floor, a protest erupted outside McConnell’s personal office, with many people in wheelchairs blocking a hallway, holding signs and chanting. Capitol police were on the scene and physically removing protesters.
HOSPITAL STOCKS SURGE
U.S. hospital stocks traded sharply higher after the bill was released, adding to gains from earlier in the session. HCA Healthcare Inc rose 3.8 percent, while Tenet Healthcare Corp surged 8.4 percent.
Health insurers also traded broadly higher, with large players Aetna and UnitedHealth Group each up more than 1 percent. Insurers that specialize in Medicaid also gained, with Centene up 3.4 percent and Molina Healthcare rising 2.6 percent.
“Hospital stocks are up on this news today,” Mizuho Securities’ director of research, Sheryl Skolnick, said in a research note. “They should be, in our view, as the near-term risks would be abated if the subsidy and Medicaid provisions hold through Senate and House negotiations.”
The subsidies enabling low-income people to buy private health insurance are expected to be linked to recipients’ income in the Senate bill, a “major improvement” from a measure approved last month by the House that tied them solely to age, Republican Senator Susan Collins said.
Some of the Senate bill’s provisions could be political land mines, with individual senators’ reactions crucial to determining whether or not the Affordable Care Act, popularly known as Obamacare, survives a Republican attack that has been underway since its passage in 2010.
But, even though Republicans now have control of the White House as well as both chambers of Congress, they have struggled to make good on their bold campaign promises to repeal and replace Obamacare.
The law is credited with expanding health insurance to millions of Americans. Republicans say it costs too much and involves the federal government too much in healthcare. Trump made Obamacare repeal a centerpiece of his 2016 election campaign.
Democrats accuse Republicans of sabotaging Obamacare, and say the Republican bill will make healthcare unaffordable for poorer Americans while cutting taxes for the wealthy.