Du­elling health-care bills tabled in U.S. Se­nate


WASH­ING­TON — Se­na­tors on Wed­nes­day rolled out com­pet­ing plans for the na­tion’s health-care sys­tem, with a group of GOP se­na­tors mak­ing a last, long-shot ef­fort to undo for­mer U.S. pres­i­dent Barack Obama’s Af­ford­able Care Act and in­de­pen­dent Sen. Bernie San­ders propos­ing uni­ver­sal gov­ern­men­trun cov­er­age.

De­spite op­po­si­tion and lit­tle time, Sens. Lind­sey Gra­ham, R-S.C., and Bill Cas­sidy, R-La., pro­posed leg­is­la­tion that would do away with many of the sub­si­dies and man­dates of the 2010 law and in­stead would pro­vide block grants to the states to help in­di­vid­u­als pay for health cov­er­age.

“If you be­lieve re­peal­ing and re­plac­ing Oba­macare is a good idea, this is your best and only chance to make it hap­pen be­cause ev­ery­thing else has failed ex­cept this ap­proach,” Gra­ham told re­porters.

The se­na­tors said that some states would get more money to pro­vide health care than they get through the cur­rent sys­tem. They are mod­el­ing their ef­fort af­ter the wel­fare re­form leg­is­la­tion passed un­der for­mer pres­i­dent Bill Clin­ton in the 1990s. They said states are bet­ter equipped than Wash­ing­ton to de­ter­mine how best to meet the needs of their res­i­dents.

They also ac­knowl­edged they have an up­hill bat­tle to get the bill passed be­fore Oct. 1 when the GOP ef­fort to re­peal the law loses its pro­tec­tion against Demo­cratic fil­i­busters.

“To my Repub­li­can col­leagues, don’t let the health-care de­bate die. Don’t leave the field with your tail be­tween your legs. Keep fight­ing,” Gra­ham said.

U.S. Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump lauded the se­na­tors’ ef­fort, but it was un­clear how much en­ergy the White House was ac­tu­ally put­ting into the health-care drive with GOP at­ten­tion shift­ing to a tax over­haul.

“In­ac­tion is not an op­tion, and I sin­cerely hope that Se­na­tors Gra­ham and Cas­sidy have found a way to ad­dress the Oba­macare cri­sis,” Trump said.

The White House is­sued the state­ment af­ter Gra­ham used the news con­fer­ence to urge Trump to “pick up the phone” and round up sup­port from gov­er­nors.

“Tell them this mat­ters to you, that you weren’t kid­ding about re­peal­ing and re­plac­ing Oba­macare, that you ac­tu­ally meant it,” Gra­ham said. “So Mr. Pres­i­dent, help us be­cause we’re try­ing to help you.”

San­ders, the Ver­mont in­de­pen­dent who cau­cuses with Democrats, was un­veil­ing leg­is­la­tion that would al­low Amer­i­cans to get health cov­er­age sim­ply by show­ing a new govern­ment-is­sued card. Con­sumers also would no longer owe out-of-pocket ex­penses like de­ductibles.

But San­ders’ de­scrip­tion of his mea­sure omit­ted specifics about how much it would cost and fi­nal de­ci­sions about how he would pay for it.

In an in­ter­view, San­ders said Tues­day his mea­sure would likely be paid for in a “pro­gres­sive way.” Aides said it would likely be fi­nanced by in­come-ad­justed pre­mi­ums peo­ple would pay the govern­ment, rang­ing from no pre­mi­ums for the poor­est Amer­i­cans to high levies on the rich and cor­po­ra­tions.

The mea­sure has no chance of be­com­ing law with Trump in the White House and Repub­li­cans con­trol­ling Congress. But it em­bod­ies a push to uni­ver­sal cov­er­age that eluded Obama’s 2010 law and is a tenet of the Demo­cratic Party’s lib­eral, ac­tivist base.

“I think in a democ­racy, we should be do­ing what the Amer­i­can peo­ple want,” San­ders said, cit­ing polls show­ing grow­ing sup­port for the con­cept.

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