GOP senators mulling over penalties in healthcare bill

One provision under consideration for the healthcare bill Senate Republicans released this week might prevent its passage.

Senate Republicans are considering adding a provision in their Better Care Act that says if purchasers in the individual market let coverage lapse, they can’t purchase insurance again for six months.

While the Senate’s healthcare overhaul measure prevents insurers from denying coverage based on pre-existing conditions, otherwise healthy people may decide not to purchase insurance, preferring to wait until coverage is needed. The penalty aims to prevent a system that only sick people participate in. In that scenario, premiums would inevitably rise.

The six-month waiting period could impede Senate Republicans’ efforts to repeal the ACA, however. The chamber has “complex reconciliation rules,” according to Vox. Republicans are using “budget reconciliation” to repeal the ACA and replace it with the Better Care Act. Using budget reconciliation, they only need a majority of 50 votes to avoid a Democratic filibuster. Normal legislation would require 60 votes to pass. But the rules for reconciliation restrict the policies that can be included in the Better Care Act, and the waiting period may be outside the allowed provisions.

Even with a majority of 52-seats in the chamber, Republicans still don’t have the 50 votes they need to pass the Better Care Act. So far, five GOP members have announced they won’t vote for the bill in its current form.

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