Cassidy and Kennedy

U.S. Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-Baton Rouge, and U.S. Sen. John N. Kennedy, R-Madisonville, visit last week in Washington, D.C.

Office of US Sen Bill Cassidy

Before deciding which way they will vote on the latest effort to repeal and replace Barack Obama's health care law, both of Louisiana's U.S. senators say they plan to spend the weekend studying up on the long-awaited health care overhaul that Republican leaders unveiled on Thursday.

The Senate health care bill, formally called the Better Care Reconciliation Act, would end the Affordable Care Act mandates, shrink Medicaid and end tax hikes on the wealthy and businesses that helped finance care for low income families.

Critics, including some prominent Republican senators, have already raised issues with the proposal, saying that it too closely mirrors a proposal from the U.S. House that the Congressional Budget Office says would lead to 23 million fewer people with health insurance.

U.S. Sen. Bill Cassidy, a Baton Rouge Republican and physician, said he was briefed on elements of the latest Senate proposal Thursday but continues to review the legislation.

“The bill includes elements of (Cassidy's own proposed legislation)—which is positive," he said in a statement. "I will study the bill to determine whether it fulfills President Trump’s campaign promises to lower premiums, maintain coverage and protect those with preexisting conditions without mandates.”

U.S. Sen. John Kennedy, R-Madisonville, also is planning to study the Senate bill over the weekend before commenting further. On Twitter he stressed his belief that, "We've got to fix the unmitigated disaster that is Obamacare."

Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards, a Democrat, said that the Senate bill "raises several red flags."

More than 431,000 Louisiana residents – mostly the working poor – have obtained health care coverage through Medicaid expansion under the existing Affordable Care Act.

The Senate proposal would essentially eliminate Medicaid expansion by gradually reducing the extra federal funding provided for it until it is entirely eliminated in 2024 and further cut funding for others covered.

"The working poor, disabled and elderly appear to shoulder the burden in this latest version of Congress’ health care rewrite," Edwards said in a statement. "This is a step backwards for cost, coverage and care. In many ways, this bill specifically disadvantages Louisiana and other similarly situated states where we are saving lives and improving health outcomes.”

President Donald Trump, who campaigned on the effort to repeal and replace his predecessor's signature health care law, often has said his goal is to reduce premiums and out-of-pocket costs while providing better coverage.

"None of that is going to happen with this bill," said Mark Diana, a health policy expert at Tulane University in New Orleans, said of the Senate bill. "They promised better coverage at a lower cost and this is taking us in the other direction."

Trump's administration voiced general support for the legislation after it was unveiled on Thursday.

"The Senate’s proposal is built on patient-centered reforms that put the American people in charge of their healthcare decisions, not government, protecting patients, bringing down the cost of coverage and expanding choices," U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price said in a statement.

Trump, himself, tweeted Thursday evening that he is "very supportive" of the Senate bill. He has also previously voiced support for the House bill.

"The president is pleased to see the process moving forward swiftly in Congress, and he looks forward to seeing a finalized bill on his desk so that we can finally repeal and replace Obamacare before it completely collapses," White House deputy press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said during Thursday's press gaggle.

Sanders said that the goal is to "look for the best health care possible that actually provides care – not just gives insurance but actually provides care."

"That’s been a goal from the administration on the front end, and we’re looking for ways to do that," she said. "We are working day in, day out to make sure we have the best piece of legislation possible."

The administration has often pointed to instability in the Obamacare-created insurance exchanges. In some states, only one insurer remains on the exchange, Sanders noted.

In Louisiana, UnitedHealthcare most recently announced its decision to exit the marketplace, leaving four insurers for Louisiana residents to choose from in the most recent enrollment period. Premiums for the more than 140,000 Louisiana residents who purchased through the exchange have also increased at a higher rate than the national average, according to the Department of Health and Human Services.

The Senate proposal would set aside $50 billion over the next four years to stabilize exchanges.

But Diana said he sees the larger problem being uncertainty around continued subsidies for exchange plans.

"It's true that in some of the exchanges, there are problems," he said. "You could fix those problems without taking insurance away from tens of millions of people." 

Follow Elizabeth Crisp on Twitter, @elizabethcrisp.