Republicans revise Obamacare repeal bill amid tepid support

WASHINGTON, Sept 25 (Reuters) - U.S. senators made a last-ditch effort on Monday to secure support for the latest Republican attempt to repeal former President Barack Obama's signature healthcare law, releasing revised legislation to appeal to undecided senators.

The bill had faced possible defeat this week as several senators in the party voiced concerns.

The Senate is up against a Saturday deadline for deciding the fate of the 2010 Affordable Care Act, popularly known as Obamacare, because of an expiring rule that lets the Republican healthcare legislation pass with just a simple 51-vote majority, instead of the 60-vote threshold needed for most measures.

Republicans, who control the Senate 52-48, were finding it difficult even to clear that lower hurdle.

RELATED: What you need to know about the GOP's latest health care bill

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Graham-Cassidy: What you need to know about the new GOP health care bill
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Graham-Cassidy: What you need to know about the new GOP health care bill

The legislation was initially proposed by Senators Lindsay Graham (center) and Bill Cassidy. Cassidy (right of Graham) is a physician in addition to being a lawmaker.

(Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Many health experts say that waivers in the bill could allow states to remove one of the more popular aspects of Obamacare -- the protection of people with preexisting conditions from being charged more for insurance -- if the deregulation would lower overall health costs.

The legislation also requires states to prove that any new health care system "intends to maintain access to adequate and affordable health insurance coverage for individuals with preexisting conditions."

(Photo: Getty Images)

The bill's current text complies with the conservative-favorite Hyde Amendment, which states that no taxpayer funds shall pay for abortions except in the case of rape, incest or if the mother's life is at risk.

Because of specific Congressional rules, the Senate parliamentarian will have to agree on the structure of the legislative language in blocking federally subsidized programs from including abortion coverage.

Even if the language is blocked, though, the Graham-Cassidy bill would funnel funding through the Children's Health Insurance Program beginning in 2021 -- which is compliant with the Hyde Amendment. 

(Photo: REUTERS/Rebecca Cook)

A study by the Commonwealth Fund estimates that around 15 million to 18 million more Americans would be without coverage by 2020 under the plan.

(Photo: Getty) 

The Brookings Institution estimates the number of people with insurance coverage would drop by around 21 million between 2020 and 2026.

(Getty Images)

The bill would also eliminate the mandate enforcing that everyone either have insurance or pay a penalty.

The Brookings Institution estimates the number of people with insurance coverage would drop by 32 million by 2027.

Beginning in 2020, the bill as law would eliminate Obamacare's Medicaid expansion and ends its marketplace subsidies.

(Photo: Getty)

Under the bill, CNN reports 34 states would receive less federal dollars for health care than they currently do under Obamacare.

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The Senate Finance Committee is scheduled to hold a hearing on Monday in an attempt to build support for the bill and to tamp down Democratic criticism that the measure has not been thoroughly vetted.

Republican senators leading the effort on Monday released a revised version of their bill, originally introduced by Senators Lindsey Graham and Bill Cassidy. It included a table that said some states where senators have been undecided, such as Alaska and Maine, would do better under the bill than under current law. The Washington Post first reported the revision.

For seven years, Republicans have hammered Obamacare as an unwarranted and overly expensive government intrusion into American healthcare. Republican President Donald Trump made repealing Obamacare one of his top campaign promises in 2016. Democrats have fiercely defended it, saying it has extended health insurance to millions.

Democratic leaders roundly rejected the revised draft as a sleight of hand to gain support.

The last attempt to repeal Obamacare fell one vote short in July, in a humiliating setback for Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

The Graham-Cassidy bill would take federal money spent on the Medicaid program for the poor and disabled, as well as subsidies to help Americans buy private insurance, and divvy it up to the states in block grants. Advocates say that would give states more discretion to manage their own healthcare schemes.

Opponents fear that undoing Obamacare will mean millions lose healthcare, including some with pre-existing medical conditions.

The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office is expected to produce as early as Monday a preliminary analysis of the bill that would assess its impact on budget deficits.

More time is likely needed for the CBO to gauge how the bill could affect Americans' access to health insurance.

Opposition to the Graham-Cassidy plan grew on Sunday.

Conservative Republican Senator Ted Cruz, speaking at an event in his home state of Texas, warned on Sunday that Trump and McConnell could not count on his vote. Cruz has pushed for greater government cost savings in healthcare.

Moderate Republican Senator Susan Collins of Maine, who voted against her party's bill in July, said on CNN's "State of the Union" on Sunday that it was difficult to "envision a scenario where I would end up voting for this bill." She worried about cuts to Medicaid benefits to the poor and disabled.

RELATED: Protests against the Republican health care bill

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Protests against the Republican health care bill
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Protests against the Republican health care bill
THE PARK IMPERIAL AT 230 WEST 56TH ST , NEW YORK, UNITED STATES - 2017/07/10: New Yorkers and healthcare advocacy groups organized a protest on July 10, 2017; outside Rep. John Faso's fundraiser as donors arrive at the Park Imperial at 230 West 56th St. in Midtown Manhattan. Faso voted for the House Trumpcare bill in May, he also coauthored the notorious Collins-Faso amendment to both the House and Senate bills that would shift New York Medicaid funding from counties budgets to the state budget. (Photo by Erik McGregor/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images)
A healthcare activist protests to stop the Republican health care bill at Russell Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., July 17, 2017. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas
Healthcare activists protest to stop the Republican health care bill at Russell Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., July 17, 2017. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas
Healthcare activists get a police warning during a protest to stop the Republican health care bill at Hart Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., July 17, 2017. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas
Healthcare activists protest to stop the Republican health care bill at Hart Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., July 17, 2017. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas
WASHINGTON, DC - JULY 10: A demonstrater from Arizona chants, 'Kill the bill or lose your job' while sitting on the floor outside the offices of Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) during a protest against health care reform legislation in the Russell Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill July 10, 2017 in Washington, DC. More than 100 people from across the country were arrested during the protest that was organized by Housing Works and Center for Popular Democracy. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
NEW YORK COUNTY REPUBLICAN OFFICE, NEW YORK, UNITED STATES - 2017/07/05: The Socialist Feminists of Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) organized a protest outside of the New York County Republican Office in New York City on July 5, 2017; to tell Republicans that is it despicable and undemocratic that they are trying to ram Trumpcare through the Senate without debate or public hearings. (Photo by Erik McGregor/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - JULY 10: Health care protesters from Arkansas chant outside of the office of Sen. John Boozman, R-Ark., in the Hart Senate Office Building on Monday, July 10, 2017. About a dozen people loudly voiced opposition to the GOP health care bill. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
THE PARK IMPERIAL AT 230 WEST 56TH ST , NEW YORK, UNITED STATES - 2017/07/10: New Yorkers and healthcare advocacy groups organized a protest on July 10, 2017; outside Rep. John Faso's fundraiser as donors arrive at the Park Imperial at 230 West 56th St. in Midtown Manhattan. Faso voted for the House Trumpcare bill in May, he also coauthored the notorious Collins-Faso amendment to both the House and Senate bills that would shift New York Medicaid funding from counties budgets to the state budget. (Photo by Erik McGregor/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - JULY 5: A small group of activists rally against the GOP health care plan outside of the Metropolitan Republican Club, July 5, 2017 in New York City. Republicans in the Senate will resume work on the bill next week when Congress returns to Washington after a holiday recess. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
A small group of activists rally against the GOP health care plan outside of the Metropolitan Republican Club, July 5, 2017 in New York City. Republicans in the Senate will resume work on the bill next week when Congress returns to Washington after a holiday recess. (Photo by Zach D Roberts/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
Healthcare activists protest to stop the Republican health care bill at Russell Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., July 10, 2017. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas
Healthcare activists are detained after a protest to stop the Republican health care bill at Hart Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., July 17, 2017. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas
A staff members asks the media to leave the room as Healthcare activists protest in the office of Senator Jeff Flake (R-AZ) to stop the Republican health care bill at Russell Senate Office building on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., July 10, 2017. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas
U.S. Capitol police arrest demonstrators in wheelchairs protesting against the AHCA health care bill put forward by President Trump and Congressional Republicans as several dozen protestors are taken into custody after refusing to leave the rotunda of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, U.S., March 22, 2017. REUTERS/Jim Bourg
Demonstrators hold signs during a protest against the repeal of the Affordable Care Act outside the Capitol Building in Washington, U.S., March 22, 2017. REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein
Healthcare activists are detained after a protest to stop the Republican health care bill at Russell Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., July 17, 2017. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas
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It was unclear whether the revisions would sway the Republican holdouts.

U.S. Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer dismissed the late effort to revise the bill and add money for a few states, calling it "just as bad for those states and the rest of the states because it still contains a massive cut to Medicaid."

A total of three Republican defections would kill off the latest effort to repeal Obamacare. Republican Senators John McCain and Rand Paul already have registered their opposition. (Reporting by Susan Cornwell and Richard Cowan; Editing by Mary Milliken and Bill Trott)

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