EDITORIAL: Senate must improve House health care bill
Local congressmen Brian Babin and Randy Weber voted for the Republican alternative to Obamacare in the House of Representatives last week, but their real test on this issue will come later. That would be when - or if - the House votes to accept the inevitable changes to the bill that will come from the Senate... assuming the 52 Republicans in the Senate can agree on a health care bill, which is by no means guaranteed.
Babin and Weber, like all Republican House members from Texas except Will Hurd, supported the bill for the reasons that are familiar to critics of the current law: They think Obamacare costs too much for many individuals, and it is costing all taxpayers more than anticipated.
Yet the Republican alternative would go too far in the other direction for most Americans, including many Texans. The House bill would reduce subsidies for middle-class policyholders and cut Medicaid spending for those too poor to afford Obamacare. It would also weaken protections for those with pre-existing conditions.
The effect of the bill is actually unclear because House leaders rammed it through without any hearings or even an analysis from the Congressional Budget Office. The CBO analysis is coming, however, and Texas senators John Cornyn and Ted Cruz will have those numbers to mull over.
As in the House, Republican senators will be split by conservatives who want a serious revision of Obamacare and relative moderates who want to preserve some of its popular features - like coverage of pre-existing conditions.
Some Democrats think that House members like Babin and Weber will be vulnerable in 2018 because they supported the health care bill, but that’s unlikely. Their districts are solidly Republican.
But that doesn’t shield them from the likelihood that some of their constituents will lose health care coverage if the Republican bill becomes law. Issues like that will affect House races next year.
The Senate could save a lot of worry for House Republicans by improving the bill and keeping more people insured. The House would then have to approve the joint version.
That might be the best possible compromise on this thorny issue for Congress and the people for whom health insurance is a necessity, not a luxury.
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