Deb Fischer plans to vote to begin debate on Senate health care plan, saying ‘things are moving in the right direction’

WASHINGTON — Sen. Deb Fischer, R-Neb., says she will vote next week to begin debate on a new version of Republican health care legislation.

“Things are moving in the right direction,” Fischer said during her weekly conference call with reporters.

An initial draft released before the Fourth of July recess did not have the votes to move forward, so senators scrambled to make the revisions that were unveiled Thursday.

Those include a proposal from Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, to allow insurers to offer cheaper, bare-bones plans as long as they also offer at least one plan that complies with existing Affordable Care Act restrictions such as essential health benefits.

Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, said that he’s still studying the new version but that Congress needs to act. He has previously expressed concern about the Cruz proposal and its impact on those with pre-existing conditions.

Critics have said the Cruz proposal will result in younger, healthier people flocking to the cheaper, bare-bones plans, driving premiums on more robust coverage through the roof and pricing many older, sicker Americans out of the market.

Fischer said she will continue to study the proposal but suggested that the Cruz language could help lower costs and give consumers more choice.

She also stressed that the legislation could change substantially during next week’s open amendment process.

Before any of that amending can begin, however, at least 50 senators must vote to bring up the bill and Republicans can only afford two defections.

Fischer is onboard with starting the debate, saying “it’s time to act,” but some of her colleagues declined to make the same commitment.

Sens. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, and Ben Sasse, R-Neb., have simply said they’re reviewing the proposal.

Opponents say Republicans are trying to ram through the legislation too quickly, noting that votes could start in a matter of days, even though the latest version was just released and has not received any hearings.

Fischer said that next week’s debate will be open to the public and that the issue has received lots of attention over the years.

“We’ve been talking about these ideas since I ran for this office,” Fischer said. “All of these ideas have been discussed before.”

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