Senate GOP’s last-gasp bill to undo Obamacare faces strong opposition
Wednesday, September 20, 2017
Time is running out in the Republican Party's quest to undo the Affordable Care Act, aka "Obamacare." A bill from Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Bill Cassidy (R-La.) that needs 50 votes by Sept. 30 (end of the budget reconciliation process) is facing dissent across the U.S.
On Tuesday, 10 governors from blue and red states wrote a letter against the Graham-Cassidy bill and in favor of stabilizing the Obamacare insurance markets. Republican Govs. Charlie Baker of Massachusetts, Brian Sandoval of Nevada and John Kasich of Ohio signed the letter.
Just a day prior, 16 patient and provider groups — from the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network to the Volunteers of America — wrote a letter to oppose the Graham-Cassidy measure. Their missive reads: "This bill would limit funding for the Medicaid program, roll back important essential health benefit protections, and potentially open the door to annual and lifetime caps on coverage, endangering access to critical care for millions of Americans."
The Kaiser Family Foundation details five ways the bill would put Medicaid coverage at risk.
Even America's Health Insurance Plans (AHIP), which represents the health insurance industry, announced their opposition the Graham-Cassidy bill. In a letter sent today to Senate leaders, Marilyn B. Tavenner, president and CEO of AHIP, wrote that the bill "would have real consequences on consumers and patients by further destabilizing the individual market; cutting Medicaid; pulling back on protections for pre-existing conditions; not ending taxes on health insurance premiums and benefits; and potentially allowing government-controlled, single-payer healthcare to grow."
More than 100 groups have written California's congressional delegation to stand against the Graham-Cassidy bill. In the Golden State, "even the 14 representatives who voted for previous ACA repeal bills need to denounce this Graham-Cassidy proposal, and make it clear that if it ever passed the Senate, it would be rejected in the House," said Anthony Wright, executive director of Health Access California, in a statement.
By one account, senators will only have partial information on the Graham-Cassidy bill before the Sept. 30 vote deadline. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office says it "will not be able to provide point estimates of the effects on the deficit, health insurance coverage, or premiums for at least several weeks."
Wright, however, warns of severe spending cuts if this new Obamacare repeal legislation advances.
"The primary difference between Graham-Cassidy and other ACA repeal proposals is that it would replace funding for premium tax credits, cost-sharing reduction payments and Medicaid expansion with a block grant, but with much less money, before ending the funding altogether," he said.
Ed Weisbart, M.D., is a member of Physicians for a National Health Program, which backs the Medicare for All Act of 2017, introduced by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) on Sept. 13. Weisbart concurs with Wright on the problems with the Graham-Cassidy use of block grants for states.
"What's essential for your health in Alabama is just as essential in Maryland and in Alaska and in Texas and in California," Weisbart said. "There's no fundamental difference in what is needed for health in any place in the country, so why would you want to introduce variations from state to state by that?"
Cassidy disagrees with Weisbart and Wright, saying that power should lie with the states to determine their own residents' needs.
"This proposal removes the decisions from Washington and gives states significant latitude over how the dollars are used to best take care of the unique healthcare needs of the patients in each state," Cassidy wrote.
All in all, enthusiasm for Graham-Cassidy is as rare as snow on a summer day.
"To date, not one major healthcare industry or advocacy group has expressed support for the Graham-Cassidy plan," Politico reports.
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