GOP sen­a­tors of­fer al­ter­na­tive health plan

Gra­ham- Cas­sidy amend­ment gives more sway to states

USA TODAY International Edition - - NEWS - Eliza Collins

WASH­ING­TON Sens. Lind­sey Gra­ham, R- S. C., and Bill Cas­sidy, RLa., aren’t on the list of likely “no” votes for the Repub­li­can health care bill, but that isn’t stop­ping them from of­fer­ing up an al­ter­na­tive.

As Se­nate Repub­li­cans were set to meet Thurs­day morn­ing to learn about the new­est ver­sion of their party’s bill to re­peal and re­place Oba­macare, Gra­ham and Cas­sidy went on CNN to float an en­tirely dif­fer­ent ap­proach.

The Gra­ham- Cas­sidy amend­ment would keep most taxes from the Af­ford­able Care Act in place and take the money raised and send it back to the states in the form of block grants. The states could then use it to cre­ate a state- spe­cific sys­tem for pro­vid­ing health in­sur­ance.

“If you like Oba­macare, you can re- im­pose the man­dates at the state level. You can re­pair Oba­macare if you think it needs to be re­paired. You can re­place it if you think it needs to be re­placed,” Gra­ham said on CNN. “It’ll be up to the gover­nors. They’ve got a bet­ter han­dle on this than any bu­reau­crat in Wash­ing­ton.”

Gra­ham said there will be a for­mula — not yet fig­ured out — to de­cide how much money each state gets.

Many gover­nors, in­clud­ing some Repub­li­cans, have ex­pressed con­cerns about the Se­nate ver­sion of the health care plan. Ohio Gov. John Ka­sich, a Repub­li­can, said Fri­day that the draft bill “is still un­ac­cept­able.” He cited “deep” cuts to Med­i­caid and the lack of power it gives states to “in­no­vate in or­der to cope with those re­duc­tions.”

Gra­ham and Cas­sidy would get rid of the re­quire­ment that in­di­vid­u­als must have in­sur­ance cov­er­age and em­ploy­ers have to of­fer in­sur­ance to full- time em­ploy­ees. The re­peal of the in­di­vid­ual and em­ployer man­dates is a key Re- pub­li­can re­quest. Leg­is­la­tion that doesn’t in­clude it would have a hard time pass­ing the Se­nate.

Cas­sidy’s of­fice said that un­der the Gra­ham- Cas­sidy plan, fed­eral fund­ing for Med­i­caid would “con­tinue to grow in a sus­tain­able man­ner, ad­justed for in­fla­tion,” but they pro­vided no de­tails for how that would work.

The phase- out of Med­i­caid fund­ing un­der the cur­rent bill is a crit­i­cal is­sue for a hand­ful of mod­er­ate law­mak­ers who are cur­rently un­de­cided on the bill. Thirty- one states and Wash­ing­ton, D. C., ex­panded Med­i­caid un­der the Af­ford­able Care Act, and law­mak­ers in both par­ties worry about what will hap­pen to peo­ple en­rolled in the pro­gram un­der the cur­rent bill.

Gra­ham and Cas­sidy in­sist they aren’t try­ing to sink the GOP lead­er­ship’s health care bill — called the Bet­ter Care Rec­on­cil­i­a­tion Act — and are hop­ing to of­fer their op­tion as an amend­ment once the bill is brought to the Se­nate floor.

“We’re go­ing to sup­port Mitch’s ef­fort with his new plan, but we want an al­ter­na­tive and we’re go­ing to see which one can get 50 votes,” Gra­ham said. “We’re not un­der­cut­ting Mitch, he’s not un­der­cut­ting us.”

But Gra­ham is also putting the ground­work in place in case McCon­nell’s health bill fails — cur­rently, it’s un­clear whether it even has the 50 votes needed to be brought to the floor. Gra­ham has reached out to at least one Demo­crat, mod­er­ate Sen. Joe Manchin of West Vir­ginia, to see whether he’d be in­ter­ested in talk­ing.

Manchin spokesman Jonathan Kott said Manchin would talk about re­pairs to Oba­macare, as long as Repub­li­cans stopped try­ing to re­peal it.

PABLO MARTINEZ MONSIVAIS, AP

Sen. Bill Cas­sidy, left, and Sen. Lind­sey Gra­ham would get rid of the in­di­vid­ual and em­ployer man­dates.

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