KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

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In Senate, GOP Is Walking A Razor-Thin Margin And These Deal-Breakers Could Nudge Them Over Edge

Politico looks at four hot-button topics that could cost Republican votes needed to pass health care legislation. Other media outlets offer explanations on taxes, the Byrd Rule and what will happen if the senators can't pass a repeal-and-replace law.

Politico: 4 Deal-Breakers That Could Blow Up A Senate Obamacare Repeal Bill
The Senate’s fresh attempt to dismantle Obamacare is already running into its first roadblock — the growing list of demands from GOP lawmakers eager to leave their own mark on the legislation. Just days into the chamber’s health care debate, centrists and self-styled mavericks are testing the party’s razor-thin margin for victory and setting the stage for a series of high-profile negotiations. Those stare downs are likely to shape big parts of the legislation, since GOP leaders can only absorb two defections if Democrats and the chamber’s two independents stand unified in opposition. (Cancryn, 5/9)

The Washington Post: Senate Republicans Face Their Own Divisions In Push For Health-Care Overhaul
Sen. Ted Cruz, a defiant loner whose feuds with Republican Party leaders have made him a conservative favorite, suddenly felt an itch to collaborate. It was late March, just after the dramatic collapse of House Republicans’ initial attempt to pass a sweeping overhaul of the nation’s health-care system. Cruz (R-Tex.) sent notice to party colleagues that he wanted to convene a working group to keep alive the GOP’s pledge to undo the law known as Obamacare. (Costa and Sullivan, 5/9)

Politico: GOP Pins Health Care Hopes On An Unlikely Figure: Ted Cruz
After four years of taunting and torturing fellow Republicans, Ted Cruz is shedding his just-say-no persona in the Senate for a new identity: Team player. And this is no idle tryout. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell — a man Cruz once derided as a liar and an ally of Democrats — is counting on the Texan to help navigate an Obamacare repeal bill through the Senate with virtually no margin for error. As a trusted voice of the conservative wing of the GOP and conduit to the House Freedom Caucus, Cruz is fast emerging as a pivotal player in the Republican bid to do away with the landmark Democratic health care law. (Everett, 5/9)

Los Angeles Times: GOP Senators Can Cut Obamacare Taxes Or Preserve Coverage For Millions — But Probably Not Both
As they take up the campaign to replace the Affordable Care Act, Senate Republicans face a critical choice between cutting taxes or preserving health coverage for millions of Americans, two competing demands that may yet derail the GOP push to roll back the 2010 healthcare law. House Republicans, who passed their own Obamacare repeal measure last week, skirted the dilemma by cutting both taxes and coverage. (Levey, 5/9)

Bloomberg: Obamacare Taxes Aren't Necessarily Going Away: GOP Senators 
Republican senators said it’s unclear whether their chamber will repeal all of the taxes imposed under Obamacare as they set aside the health-care bill passed by the House and prepare to write their own from scratch.“That’s hard to say right now. We just have to see,” said Senate Finance Chairman Orrin Hatch, the Utah Republican whose panel oversees health-care and tax policy. “It’s going to be negotiated.” (Kapur, 5/9)

The Associated Press: AP Explains: How Byrd Rule Shapes GOP Push On Health Care
The success of Republican efforts to repeal and replace Democrat Barack Obama's Affordable Care Act could depend on an obscure Senate rule that few people have heard of and even fewer understand. It's called the Byrd rule, named for the late West Virginia Sen. Robert Byrd and designed decades ago to preserve Senate filibuster rights. What it means for health care is that many Republican ideas may be ruled ineligible. (5/10)

Politico Pro: 52 Ways To Do A Repeal Bill 
Senate Republicans want to do their own Obamacare repeal plan — but they have about 52 different ideas about how to do it. Several working groups and coalitions have sprung up as GOP lawmakers start to figure out exactly how they’re going to repeal the Affordable Care Act. (Haberkorn, 5/9)

The Fiscal Times: The Question Nobody’s Asking: What If The GOP Can’t Get A Health Law Passed? 
Republicans in Washington are taking a massive risk when it comes to health insurance policy, and it’s separate and apart from passing a bill through the House of Representatives that restructures the US healthcare system without a score from the Congressional Budget Office. From President Trump on down, Republicans are pointing to the fact that as insurance companies are abandoning the health insurance exchanges created by the Affordable Care Act, they're slowly creating a situation in which some Americans will have no exchange-based options at all in 2018. (Garver, 5/9)

Roll Call: Senate Leaders Spar On Republican Efforts To Repeal Obamacare
It’s only the first full work week since the Senate received the House-passed measure to reorder the nation’s health insurance system, and leaders in both parties are wasting no time hurling criticism at each other over how to approach the legislation. Using the time reserved for leadership press conferences after Tuesday’s policy lunches, Republicans criticized Democrats for refusing to come to the table and negotiate a fix to a health care system they described as in chaos. Democrats accused the GOP of crafting a bill in secret, by an all-male working group, that would drastically reduce benefits for vulnerable people. (Williams, 5/9)

The Hill: No. 2 Republican: Senate Will Pass Healthcare Bill This Year
Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) pledged Tuesday that the Senate will pass a bill repealing and replacing ObamaCare this year. Senators have been cautious not to commit themselves to an exact timeframe in the wake of last week’s House vote, but the upper chamber’s No. 2 Republican has said healthcare reform will be completed in 2017. When pressed by reporters on whether a measure would be passed before the end of the fiscal year on Sept. 30, he wouldn’t commit. (Roubein, 5/9)

Kaiser Health News: Reactions To The GOP Health Bill: Voices From The States
As the American Health Care Act moves toward the Senate, many people around the country are reacting to it. Among them, people with preexisting conditions who worry about losing their coverage.One of the biggest concerns about the House bill is its treatment of preexisting conditions. Several lawmakers were worried it would leave sicker people in the lurch, so an additional $8 billion was negotiated to help that population. (5/10)

The Hill: Hatch: Senate’s ObamaCare Repeal Unlikely To Go Through Committees
The Senate's ObamaCare repeal bill is unlikely to go through the committee process, Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) said Tuesday. "I don't think it's going to go through the committees, at least from what I know about it," the Senate Finance Committee chairman said. The Senate is devising its own healthcare plan rather than taking up the House's, which passed last week. (Hellmann, 5/9)

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