Senate gets back to work on healthcare

By Jessie Hellmann

The Senate is coming back after a weeklong Memorial Day recess and will get its first look at the draft healthcare bill staff has been working on.

But GOP senators are already beginning to tamp down expectations on getting any major healthcare reform this year.

“It’s unlikely that we will get a healthcare deal,” Sen. Richard Burr (N.C.) told a North Carolina news station Thursday.

Republican Sens. Jeff Flake (Ariz.) and Ron Johnson (Wis.) have made similar comments, casting doubt on whether health reform can actually get done this year.

Meanwhile, Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-Texas) insists the upper chamber will pass ObamaCare repeal by the end of July at the latest.

But there are still deep divisions in the GOP over how to handle the Medicaid expansion and ObamaCare’s regulations, and no solutions or compromises to those issues have yet surfaced.

A critical score from the Congressional Budget Office released a few weeks ago could also make things harder as the Senate tries to find ways to stem the coverage losses expected under the House-passed healthcare bill.

They’re also battling public perception. A recent poll shows most disapprove of the GOP’s ObamaCare repeal efforts.

ObamaCare repeal isn’t the only health item on Congress’ agenda in the week ahead.

Also happening: Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price will defend the Trump administration’s proposed cuts to the agency Thursday.

It will be a tough sell for Price. The budget calls for more than $600 billion in Medicaid cuts in addition to about $800 billion in cuts anticipated in the House’s healthcare plan.

It also includes massive cuts to the National Institutes of Health and the Centers for Disease Control.

President Trump’s budget proposal won’t pass Congress, but lawmakers from both parties were quick to raise concerns over the cuts and be expected to grill Price on the spending blueprint.

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