Ted Cruz’s amendment that could save the Senate healthcare bill has actually been submitted to the CBO for scoring, which makes it sound like leadership is taking this amendment very seriously:
WSJ – Senate Republican leaders, in a bid to salvage their health overhaul, are weighing the merits of a proposal by Sen. Ted Cruz (R., Texas) to let insurers that sell plans that conform to the Affordable Care Act’s regulations also sell policies that don’t.
The idea, also backed by Sen. Mike Lee (R., Utah), would allow insurers to offer cheaper, less-comprehensive policies, likely to be bought by healthier people. Those policies could charge higher prices to those with pre-existing medical conditions, and possibly deny them coverage altogether.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) asked the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office to analyze the Cruz provision’s impact on the federal budget and on insurance coverage, according to Senate GOP aides—a sign Senate leaders are genuinely contemplating it.
The Cruz proposal likely would lower premiums for some consumers, a priority of Senate conservatives, and could help bring some of them on board. Sens. Cruz and Lee are among four conservative senators who rejected the initial version of Mr. McConnell’s bill, saying it did too little to uproot the ACA and lower premiums.
The Cruz idea also is getting a warm reception from influential GOP House conservatives, including Reps. Jim Jordan of Ohio and Mark Meadows of North Carolina. “It’s a good amendment,” Mr. Jordan said in a brief interview. “If that goes in, that’s a great move.”
Still, Mr. McConnell’s challenge has always been that moves aimed at enticing conservatives could alienate centrists, and vice versa. The Cruz proposal puts GOP Senators who pledged to preserve protections for people with pre-existing conditions in a precarious position.
Health analysts said the amendment would cause premiums for that demographic to jump, resurrecting a thorny political issue that drew national attention earlier this year when House Republicans added a similar measure to their bill, known as the MacArthur amendment.
“If this were adopted, premiums would skyrocket for people who need comprehensive coverage,” said Timothy Jost, a law professor at Washington and Lee University in Lexington, Va.
Mr. Cruz’s office, asked for comment Wednesday, referred to an interview he gave a Dallas-based radio station. “We’ve got to lower premiums, and the way you lower premiums is you give the consumers freedom to choose the health insurance plan that they want without the government mandates,” Mr. Cruz told WBAP.
As pointed out in the Fox News report above, Ted Cruz discussed this at his townhall yesterday and you can watch the full townhall below (I have it cued to start at 7:29):