After Republicans in the House of Representatives passed their Obamacare replacement bill May 4, the issue went to the Senate, where the party only holds a small majority. Any healthcare proposal introduced in the Senate could fail if even a few party members aren't on board, which is why it's significant that one female Republican senator is fighting the GOP's healthcare reform.
Senator Susan Collins of Maine co-sponsored a different Obamacare replacement measure back in January and is fostering bipartisan talks about healthcare reform. When the Republicans' American Health Care Act (AHCA) was being debated in the House, Sen. Collins was vocal about her opposition to the plan, telling The Portland Press Herald, "This is not a bill I could support in its current form. It really misses the mark."
Although the final AHCA version passed in the House wasn't scored, the Congressional Budget Office estimated the original bill would leave 24 million more Americans without insurance within a decade. Collins wants a plan that would help more people get insured, not less.
"This bill doesn’t come close to achieving the goal of allowing low-income seniors to purchase health insurance,” Collins told The Portland Press Herald. "We don’t want to in any way sacrifice coverage for people who need it the most."
The bill she co-sponsored with Sen. Bill Cassidy, the Patient Freedom Act, would repeal key parts of Obamacare, including the individual mandate that charges people a fee for not having insurance, the employer mandate that requires employers to offer affordable insurance, and essential health benefits that must be covered by all plans. The legislation would give a lot more power to individual states, allowing them the option of either keeping the current marketplace regulations or writing their own.
While the Patient Freedom Act would repeal some of the same Obamacare protections the AHCA aims to get rid of, it would keep the provision that doesn't allow insurance providers to turn people away because of preexisting conditions. It would also provide financial assistance to people not on Medicare or Medicaid who don't get insurance through their employer.
The Hill reports Sen. Collins helped organize a bipartisan meeting to discuss an Obamacare replacement Monday, and she told reporters, "There is a group of us, both Republicans and Democrats, who are trying to see if there is a bipartisan path forward on healthcare reform." She said the group talked about the Patient Freedom Act, but that it's not necessarily the only solution.
Considering the original Senate working group formed to address health care consisted of 13 men, Collins' involvement on the issue is especially important. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell stressed that all Republicans were welcome to join the discussions, but there are only five female Republican senators total, including Collins.
Rather than working with McConnell and the other Republican men convening on health care, Sen. Collins is taking a different approach. Along with other moderate Republicans in the Senate, she could stop the GOP's current health care proposal — or at the very least, make sure it's tweaked to make health care a little more accessible.