US' Ryan says to send health bill to Senate after CBO score


UPDATE 2-US' Ryan says to send health bill to Senate after CBO score

(Adds Senator Wyden comments, paragraphs 8-11)
    By Susan Heavey and Susan CornwellWASHINGTON, May 19 (Reuters) - The U.S. House of
Representatives will send its healthcare overhaul plan passed
this month to the Senate after it receives a final analysis by
congressional reviewers, probably in a couple of weeks, House
Speaker Paul Ryan said on Friday.
    Ryan said in a radio interview that the delay was "out of an
abundance of caution" until the Congressional Budget Office
(CBO) releases its findings on the legislation's costs and its
impact on health insurance coverage.
    The CBO's analysis, or "score," is expected late Wednesday,
taking into account final changes to the bill before it passed
the Republican-led House earlier this month. [nW1N1GF01X]
    "We are just basically being overly cautious, but there's
really kind of a non-issue here," Ryan told the syndicated Hugh
Hewitt radio show. "We're moving it over to the Senate probably
in a couple of weeks."
    Republicans are eager to make good on their campaign promise
to repeal and replace the 2010 Affordable Care Act, Democratic
former President Barack Obama's signature healthcare law, also
known as Obamacare.
    Their plan narrowly passed the House on May 4 despite
clashes within the Republican Party between hard-line and more
moderate members. Ryan dismissed the likelihood that the new CBO
score could force another vote in the House.
    The measure still faces a potentially steep climb in the
Senate, where Republicans hold a narrower majority. Senate
Republican leaders have formed a Republican working group, but
it is unclear how much of the House bill they will accept. Some
senators in both parties have vowed to start from scratch.
    "What we've had so far is a debacle on healthcare," Senator
Ron Wyden, the top Democrat on the Senate finance committee,
said Friday in an interview with Reuters. "You can't make this
stuff up."
    Wyden said he was wary of a Senate bipartisan group that is
also working on healthcare. Republican Senators Susan Collins
and Bill Cassidy, who have proposed letting states decide
whether to keep, scrap or replace Obamacare, have attracted
several Democrats to bipartisan talks in search of common
    Wyden said he feared the Cassidy-Collins approach would let
states allow insurance companies to sell "junk plans" that do
not include health benefits like hospitalization.
    "Put me down for freedom to innovate and flexibility, but on
that issue, that doesn't mean the freedom to leave people
without decent care," Wyden told Reuters.
    Lawmakers in both chambers must also grapple with potential
voter backlash ahead of the 2018 congressional election.
    Public opinion polls have shown slipping support for
Republican efforts. A Politico/Morning Consult poll this month
found 44 percent of nearly 2,000 people surveyed disapproved of
the House bill compared with 38 percent who approved of it.
    House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi's spokesman, Drew
Hammill, said the House bill was becoming a liability for
Republicans and "has no chance of success in the Senate, and now
may even have to come back to the House to be amended."
    Before the latest changes, the CBO had said the bill would
leave 24 million more Americans uninsured by 2026 and slice
about $150 billion off the budget deficit.
    The House bill allows states to decide whether insurers can
charge more to people with pre-existing conditions and roll back
Obamacare's Medicaid expansion. [nL1N1I51QT]

 (Editing by Jonathan Oatis)
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