New draft of health bill contains plan sought by Sen. Cruz

WASHINGTON — Senate Republican leaders are adding new language to their health care bill to allow the sale of cheap, bare-bones insurance plans in an attempt to draw enough conservative support to pass the measure to replace Obamacare.

At the same time, the bill will give moderates more of what they want by increasing funding to fight opioid addiction from $2 billion in the original bill to $45 billion in the latest draft.

The draft bill, expected to be released later Thursday, will try to appeal to conservatives by including a version of an amendment by Sens. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and Mike Lee, R-Utah, that would allow the sale of deregulated insurance plans as long as Obamacare-compliant plans are also still sold.

“A version of the (Cruz amendment) will be in the bill; we have not seen it and we don’t know if we can support it,” said Conn Carroll, a spokesman for Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah. Lee later tweeted that he had not seen the amendment nor agreed to it and was withholding judgment.

Insurance companies have strongly opposed the Cruz amendment, saying it would cause more instability in the marketplace. Supporters of the plan say it will give consumers the option to choose the right plan for their lifestyle. But critics say older and sicker Americans will end up paying much more for their more robust coverage.

The revised proposal would continue the Affordable Care Act's taxes on high-income earners to help subsidize care for lower-income Americans.

It was not immediately clear whether the changes would attract enough votes to pass the legislation, which Republicans are calling the Better Care Reconciliation Act.

Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., can only afford to lose two of the 52 Republican senators to pass the legislation. About 10 GOP senators opposed the initial Republican bill that was unveiled last month, and McConnell scrapped a planned vote at the end of June.

Democrats have been united in opposing the bill, calling on Republicans to instead work with them to try to fix problems with the existing Obamacare system.

McConnell hopes to hold a vote on the revised bill next week, after the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office releases a new analysis of what it will cost and how many people it would insure.

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