Murkowski slams the secrecy of Senate’s health care process

U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski told D.C. reporters Tuesday she has yet to see the Senate’s health care bill and isn’t happy with the secretive, break-neck pace at which the bill is headed for the Senate floor.

“Yeah, I got a problem with it,” she told Alaska Public Media’s Liz Ruskin. “If I’m not going to see a bill before we have a vote on it, that’s just not a good way to handle something that is as significant and important as health care.”

Murkowski also said the Senate can, and should, do better when it comes to the process of the health care bill.

“I think that we do better as a body when we respect the process. And the process allows for committee involvement, debate and discussion,” Murkowski told the Alaska Dispatch News’ Erica Martinson.

Both stories focused almost entirely on the process of the health care bill.

There’s still no news about how Alaska might fare under the Senate version of the bill.

Yes, Alaska’s insurance premiums have rose under Obamacare, but the American Health Care Act passed by the House is estimated to make them rise even more, particularly for older and poorer Alaskans. The big problem, as laid out in Gov. Bill Walker’s letter to Congress, is the Republican plan to remove the geographic differential for insurance subsidies and a potential plan to turn Medicaid into per capita funding.

Both seem to be a core part of the Republican plan. Alaska looks to fare the worst, especially without a specific exception, additional funding or something to help Alaska to figure out the root problem of its highest-in-the-nation health care costs.

The House made no motion toward resolving that in its version of the health care bill. Rep. Don Young supported it anyways, saying he expected the problems would be fixed in the Senate or through a separate bill entirely.

Murkowski and her office had little to share on whether Alaska’s congressional delegation is having success on that front.

They haven’t seen the bill after all.

About lunch

The interviews were after Murkowski and 12 other Republican senators had lunch with President Donald Trump at the White House. During that meeting, Trump praised the Senate’s work on the bill. He also said there could be some extra cash in the bill, which might be the first, somewhat-concrete news of the content of the new bill.

“The Senate is working very, very hard and specifically the folks in this room—and I really appreciate what you’re doing—to come out with a bill that’s going to be a phenomenal bill for the people with our country,” he said. “Generous, kind and with heart, that’s what I’m saying. And that may be adding additional money into it.”

Ruskin did ask Murkowski about her uncomfortable-looking body language at lunch with Trump.

“I’m an active listener,” Murkowski said, “and I like to look at people when they’re talking.”

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