GOP senators offer alternative health plan
Graham- Cassidy amendment gives more sway to states
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.
Sen. Bill Cassidy, left, and Sen. Lindsey Graham would get rid of the individual and employer mandates.