Alaska News

Murkowski on Republican health care bill: I need time to ‘run the numbers’

WASHINGTON — Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski needs time to review the Republican health care bill, and it's not clear that she's going to get it before a Senate vote, she said Wednesday.

Murkowski said she still doesn't know what might be in the bill in development under Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. Senators are expecting to get insight on the bill — potentially a copy of the text — on Thursday. McConnell has made clear he is planning for a vote next week, before the Senate leaves for its July Fourth recess.

Alaska's senior senator is broadly considered to be a potential "swing" vote on the health care bill. She has indicated a desire to keep some elements of the Affordable Care Act and to keep Alaska's Medicaid expansion in place. She was also broadly critical of the House version of the bill, which would significantly raise health insurance premium costs for some Alaskans.

[As Congress eyes Medicaid cuts, rising costs for elder care are on Alaska's horizon]

After speaking at an Arctic conference in Washington on Wednesday morning, Murkowski said she planned to tell reporters all day to "check with me tomorrow, when I actually know what it is we're dealing with, because that's what I'm told we may actually see."

But "I don't know whether we're actually going to see bill text, or whether it's going to be general comments, which won't be helpful for us," Murkowski said.

Murkowski said she needs to "run the numbers" on any proposed legislation to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act and its tax, funding and Medicaid provisions.

"I need to be able to know exactly what the impact of any proposal will do on our various populations" in Alaska, Murkowski said.

In the meantime, the senator said, she's been trying to get modeled information from the Center for Medicaid Services, the Congressional Budget Office and the state of Alaska, based "on the rumors that are going on, saying, 'OK, if in fact the growth rate is this, what would the impact be?' "

But with potentially less than a week between the bill reveal and a vote, Murkowski said she's unsure if it's possible to get the data.

"I'm not sure that we've even got the models built in Alaska to determine what the impact of, say, for instance, a growth model on Medicaid, what that impact would be. So I need to know that I've got enough time," she said.

Despite her concerns, Murkowski could not say whether the timing of the bill would prevent her vote in favor of legislation, since she had no idea what will be in it.