Sen. Bennet speaks at rally against proposed federal health care bill

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DENVER -- Democratic U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet spoke at a rally against the proposed federal health care bill on Sunday.

Various groups gathered outside the Colorado State Capitol at 2 p.m.

"The last proposal we saw from the Senate would result in 22 million Americans losing coverage. That is unacceptable. We will rally to tell them to go back to Washington to do the right thing and protect health care for Coloradans," organizers said.

Last week, a group of people protesting inside Republican U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner's Denver office were cited for trespassing after refusing to leave while protesting the proposed health care bill.

While the Senate bill is largely similar to the House-passed bill, there are some key differences.

Medicaid has been one of the central sticking points in the debate. The bill would continue the enhanced Medicaid expansion funding from Obamacare until 2021 and then phase it out over three years.

This is a concession to moderates, who weren’t pleased the House version would end the enhanced support for new enrollees in 2020.

However, conservatives also get some of what they want when it comes to overhauling the entire Medicaid program.

The Senate bill would keep the House plan to send a fixed amount of money to states each year based on enrollment or as a lump sum block grant.

But it would shrink the program even more over time by pegging the annual growth rate of those funds to standard inflation instead of the more generous medical inflation, starting in 2025.

This would likely force states to cut enrollment, benefits or provider payments.

The Senate bill would also largely maintain Obamacare’s premium subsidies structure, but tighten the eligibility criteria starting in 2020.

Fewer middle class people would get help because only those earning up to 350 percent of the poverty level would qualify instead of the 400 percent threshold contained in Obamacare.

But it would also open the subsidies to enrollees below the poverty level so those living in states that didn’t expand Medicaid could get some assistance.

Senators opted to keep Obamacare’s subsidies to prevent the funds from being used for abortions.

The House bill called for creating tax credits based largely on age, but adding abortion restrictions to these credits could have run afoul of Senate rules governing the bill.

Still, the similarities to Obamacare will likely infuriate conservatives such as Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, who decried the House version as “Obamacare Lite.”

Also, as in the House bill, it would defund Planned Parenthood for one year.

The Senate also backs away from some last-minute House concessions to conservatives that would have allowed states to opt out of several protections for those with pre-existing conditions, but insurers would not be allowed to charge higher premiums to those with pre-existing conditions.

The bill would also aim to shore up the existing Obamacare market by allocating funds for the cost-sharing subsidies until 2019.

This will placate insurers, who were distraught by President Donald Trump’s refusal to commit to continue making these payments, leading many carriers to hike rates or drop out of the exchanges for 2018.