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Senate Republicans unveil health care bill

SENATE REPUBLICANS UNVEIL HEALTH CARE BILL

Senate Republicans on Thursday formally unveiled their proposal to replace former President Barack Obama's universal health care law, ending more than a month of backdoor dealing.

The announcement is the result of secretive planning in the Senate after the House of Representatives narrowly passed their bill in early May.

In announcing the Senate proposal, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell slammed "Obamacare", saying it is on the verge of collapse while urging Democrats to support its replacement.

"Obamacare is a direct attack on the middle class, and American families deserve better than its failing status quo — they deserve better care," he said on the Senate floor.

But the bill McConnell is championing is far from being a shoe-in in the tightly contested chamber even as he seeks to rush it through the Senate.

So far support for the controversial replacement has been uncertain, even among Republicans, and McConnell will need a united caucus to get the bill through the chamber where his party holds only 52 of 100 seats.

Republican Sens. Rand Paul, Ted Cruz and Ron Johnson said in a joint statement they would not support the bill in its current form "for a variety of reasons".

Sen. Dean Heller, also a Republican, warned he is not ready to lend his support because of "serious concerns".

Nevada, the state Heller represents, saw 200,000 receive healt hcare for the first time under Obamacare's Medicaid expansion.

The Republican proposal guts the Medicaid program that provides health care to low-income Americans while simultaneously ending Obama-era tax cuts on the rich that helped fund the universal health care expansion.

It also halts federal funding for Planned Parenthood for one year, ends tax penalties on individuals who lack coverage and like the House bill before it, would allow states to pursue waivers from Obama-era standards on what insurance companies must provide.

"This #Trumpcare bill strips away protections from the ppl who need them most in order to give a tax break to those who need it least," Chuck Schumer, the Senate's top Democrat said on Twitter.

Public opposition to the bill has been swift.

Capitol Police were called in to remove protesters, some in wheelchairs, who camped out in front of McConnell's office shortly after the bill was made public.

Also reacting to the bill, Obama called it a "transfer of wealth from middle-class and poor families to the richest people in America.

"It hands enormous tax cuts to the rich and to the drug and insurance industries, paid for by cutting health care for everybody else," he said in a lengthy 950-word Facebook post.

The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) is expected to score the bill next week.

After the House passed its version, called the American Health Care Act, the CBO said it would result in 23 million more Americans without insurance than current numbers.

The office assessed the bill would reduce federal deficits by $119 million over the next 10 years, and would lower premiums "in part because the insurance, on average, would pay for a smaller proportion of health care costs".

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