Senate Republicans continue health care reform effort

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WOODBURY -

Senate Republicans are floating new ideas as they try to replace the Affordable Care Act.

"The American people deserve better than Obamacare," says Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader.

A previous attempt at health care overhaul failed to unite Republicans, some of whom lean more conservative and some more moderate.

The new bill put forth by party leadership is different in that it would allow insurers to sell low-cost, watered-down policies. It also adds billions of dollars to combat opioid abuse. But it retains significant cuts to Medicaid and declines to repeal two Obama-era taxes on the wealthy -- two moves drawing criticism once again from some conservative and moderate Republicans.

Democrats say the plan is no better than the bill the House passed earlier this year, which they opposed completely.

"The bill was mean when it passed the House," says Sen. Chuck Schumer, a New York Democrat and the Senate's minority leader. "It was mean when it was introduced in the Senate. And it is still mean today. Republicans should abandon this path, step back from the brink, and work with Democrats to improve health care, instead of sabotaging it."

Meanwhile, Republican Sens. Bill Cassidy, of Louisiana, and Lindsey Graham, of South Carolina, have put forth an alternative plan in case McConnell's latest proposal stalls.

"Rather than trying to run health care from Washington, we're going to block grant it to the states," Graham says of his proposal. "And here's what will happen: If you like Obamacare, you can re-impose the mandates at the state level. You can repair Obamacare if you think it needs to be repaired. You can replace it if you think it needs to be replaced. It will be up to the governors. They've got a better handle on this than any bureaucrat in Washington."

If Senate Republicans are able to pass either of the proposals, House Speaker Paul Ryan says his colleagues in the House are committed to making sure that a repeal and replace bill ultimately ends up on the president's desk.

"If the Senate is going to give us a health care bill, we are going to stay and finish the health care bill," he says.

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