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In an attempt to break the Senate GOP’s stalemate over their healthcare bill, Sen. Ted Cruz is pushing a plan that could end up further complicating the discussions.
Cruz has put forth an amendment for the bill, the Better Care Reconciliation Act (BCRA), that would allow insurers to sell plans that do not follow regulations created in the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare. To do so, insurers would have to maintain at least one plan that would adhere to the regulations.
That would allow insurers to offer plans that skimp on coverage but have lower costs. Theoretically, such deregulated plans would be more attractive to young and healthy people who do not want the full suite of coverage options.
The two main regulations that the Cruz plan would let insurers avoid are essential health benefits (EHBs) and community rating.
EHBs are a set of 10 types of care that all plans have to cover under Obamacare, including maternity care, mental health care, and emergency room trips.
Community rating is a provision of Obamacare that requires people of the same age in a given area to be charged the same amount for premiums. In practice, that means people with preexisting conditions can’t be charged more than those who are healthy. That raises prices for healthy people, but it also prevents sick people form paying drastically higher prices or being priced out of the market altogether.
For this reason, the Cruz plan might not be politically viable.
The idea would likely win over some more conservative senators that oppose the current BCRA, like Mike Lee of Utah and Ron Johnson of Wisconsin.
Conservative groups also praised the idea, saying it follows through on Republican commitment to repeal Obamacare.
“It is encouraging to see Senate leadership exploring the merits of serious proposals that would inject much-needed consumer choice and competition into an otherwise deteriorating market,” Heritage Action CEO Michael Needham said in a statement Thursday. “These are the types of reforms that would help roll back the damage inflicted by Obamacare. Simply throwing more money at the problem as some moderates are seeking to do is not an enduring solution.”
On the other side, preexisting condition protections are a non-negotiable for many more moderate GOP senators.
“If Cruz succeeds in putting it in the bill, the bill dies. Period. End of sentence, end of paragraph, end of story,” a senior GOP aide told Axios’ Caitlin Owens.
According to Axios, the aide said the bill would lose between 20 and 30 votes if Cruz’s amendment is added.
A spokesperson for Cruz did not immediately respond to a request for comment.