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Hatch backs new GOP Senate health care bill, Lee undecided

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SALT LAKE CITY — One Utah senator says he supports Senate Republicans' latest health care bill, while the other sits on the fence.

Sen. Orrin Hatch said the plan isn't perfect but does enough to fulfill the GOP's vow to repeal and replace Obamacare.

"It represents a compromise, but one that puts patients first, particularly in Utah where I’ve been pleased to see such a high level of engagement on this critical issue," Hatch said in a statement.

But the Utah Republican said GOP senators will continue to have discussions and plan to hold a "robust" amendment process once the bill hits the Senate floor, though some say that remains a big if.

"Let me say at the outset that this bill isn’t perfect. There are some things in the bill that, given my preferences, I would do very differently," Hatch said in a speech on the Senate floor.

Still, he said the plan would fill the "vast majority" of Republican promises to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, commonly called Obamacare.

The revised bill would provide an additional $70 billion that states could use to help reduce premiums, hold down out-of-pocket costs and otherwise make health care more affordable. The bill already included more than $112 billion for such purposes.

The plan would allow people to use their health savings accounts to pay for premiums with pretax dollars.

Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, has opposed earlier versions of the Better Care Reconciliation Act and said he's undecided on the latest iteration. He and Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, are pushing for fewer coverage requirements.

"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,” Lee said in a statement. “I will need time to study the new version and speak with experts about whether it does enough to lower health insurance premiums for middle-class families."


Earlier Thursday, Lee tweeted, "Just FYI - The Cruz-Lee Amendment has not been added to BCRA. Something based on it has, but I have not seen it or agreed to it."

The amendment would let insurers sell health plans that don't comply with Affordable Care Act regulations, such as pre-existing conditions protections or essential health benefits, as long as they also sell plans that meet the rules

Cruz, however, said in a statement that he is encouraged that the revised bill ensures consumers have the freedom to choose among more affordable plans that are tailored to their individual health care needs and expands health savings accounts so consumers can pay insurance premiums on a pretax basis.

"This is a critical step in the right direction, and I will continue to work closely with my colleagues to unite our conference around a bill that can pass, and that honors our promises and that truly lowers premiums, which is crucial to providing relief from Obamacare," he said.

On Wednesday, Lee said there are some changes that would "bring me along," including the consumer freedom option and allowing people to use pretax dollars to pay their premiums using a health savings account.

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Dennis Romboy


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