Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch backs GOP heath care plan, Sen. Mike Lee still mulling it

Friday , July 14, 2017 - 2:26 PM3 comments

TIM VANDENACK, Standard-Examiner Staff

Sen. Orrin Hatch is expressing support for the GOP health care reform plan unveiled Thursday, notably because it represents a departure from Obamacare.

U.S. Sen. Mike Lee is still mulling the plan, called the Better Care Reconciliation Act.

Hatch, in a statement on the Senate floor, noted that “virtually every” Senate GOPer has backed moves to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare. “We’ve all made promises to our constituents along those lines. This legislation, while far from perfect, would fulfill the vast majority of those promises,” he said Thursday.

In a written statement, Hatch said the updated plan contains “major victories for Utah” and represents “a compromise, but one that puts patients first.”

Still, if debate proceeds, he indicated the proposal doesn’t necessarily reflect the final product. “We will continue to have discussions and plan to hold a robust amendment process once we are able to move this bill to the Senate floor,” Hatch said.

Meanwhile Lee, who’s been among a contingent of conservative GOPers with numerous questions and concerns about the plan, is still sorting through the updated reform plan.

“The new Senate health care bill is substantially different from the version released last month, and it is unclear to me whether it has improved,” he said in a statement. He needs to study the plan and consult with experts to determine “whether it does enough to lower health insurance premiums for middle class families.”

The Utah Health Policy Project, which has expressed support for Obamacare, released letters on Thursday that the organization sent to Lee and Hatch expressing reservations with GOP reform efforts.

“It’s clear that it cannot be ‘fixed’ without addressing its major structural issues and deep cuts to Medicaid,” said the letters, dated Wednesday and signed by Matthew M. Slonaker, the UHPP executive director. Under the GOP plan, around 166,000 adults and 79,000 children in the state would lose health care coverage by 2022, the letters said, and Utah would experience a $1.1 billion cut in Medicaid funding.

GOP backers of the health care measure are carefully counting the support it has in the Senate. It can withstand only minimal Republican defections if it is to survive.

Contact reporter Tim Vandenack at tvandenack@standard.net, follow him on Twitter at @timvandenack or like him on Facebook at Facebook.com/timvandenackreporter.

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