Senate Health Care Bill Draws Criticism From Conservative Republican Lawmakers

Senators say bill does not go far enough to repeal Obamacare and drive down premiums

Mitch McConnell / Getty Images
June 23, 2017

The Senate health care bill designed to replace the Affordable Care Act has drawn criticism from conservative Republican lawmakers who say the measure does not go far enough to repeal Obamacare.

Sen. Ted Cruz (R., Tex.) said there are parts of the bill he supports such as the expansion of association health plans and the reform of Medicaid. However, "as currently drafted, this bill does not do nearly enough to lower premiums. That should be the central issue for Republicans—repealing Obamacare and making health care more affordable. Because of this, I cannot support it as currently drafted, and I do not believe it has the votes to pass the Senate."

Cruz said the bill should allow individuals to purchase health insurance across state lines, which would increase competition and lower costs. He supports the expansion of health savings accounts and giving Americans more freedom in choosing plans that are right for them.

Sen. Ron Johnson (R., Wis.) said that holding a vote on the measure next week would be too rushed to hear input from his constituents and that he would likely not vote for it if there wasn't enough time.

"What I've told leadership very clearly is I'm going to need time and my constituents are going to need time to evaluate exactly how this is going to affect them," Johnson said. "I can't imagine, quite honestly, that I'd have the information to evaluate and justify a yes vote within just a week."

Cruz and Johnson, along with Sen. Mike Lee (R., Utah) and Sen. Rand Paul (R., Ky.), issued a joint statement in opposition to the measure, conceding that while there are some improvements in the bill it does not go far enough to provide comprehensive reform.

"There are provisions in this draft that represent an improvement to our current health care system, but it does not appear this draft as written will accomplish the most important promise that we made to Americans: to repeal Obamacare and lower their health care costs," the senators said. "Currently, for a variety of reasons, we are not ready to vote for this bill, but we are open to negotiation and obtaining more information before it is brought to the floor."

According to a poll from the Kaiser Famidly Foundation, 55 percent of Americans say the Senate's bill is unfavorable, compared with 30 percent who say it is favorable.

The percentage of Republicans who are showing support for the replacement is declining. In May, 67 percent of Republicans found the measure favorable compared with 56 percent who say the same today.

"The public at large is deeply skeptical about the repeal-and-replace plan, with support among the Republican base hanging in but slipping and in danger of falling further," says Drew Altman, president of the Kaiser Family Foundation.