GOP takes another swipe at Obamacare

Free Press wire reports | 9/22/2017, 7:59 p.m.
Jay Stout considers himself lucky that he was on the health insurance plan that his mother purchased through the Affordable ...

The Cassidy-Graham health care bill would eliminate Obamacare in 2020 and replace it with a block grant system to allot money to the states, but only for seven years. Through the block grants, pre-existing conditions may or may not be covered, depending on whether Republicans control the levers of power in a state.

At least 34 states would see less federal funding for health care under the plan. Virginia is one of 16 states that could benefit, one independent analysis has found, though a separate analysis in Virginia suggests the state would lose money.

Sen. Graham insists his proposal would give states more control over their health care and cut out the federal government.

Critics have expressed concern that the plan would drastically increase the number of uninsured Americans and lead to fewer financial protections for people with pre-existing conditions. Ten bipartisan governors have urged the Senate to reject the plan, although 16 Republican governors have issued a statement of support.

Virtually all major health care groups, including the American Medical Association, are opposed.

By rushing the bill to the floor, proponents of the plan have prevented the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office from determining the plan’s impact on people and on states.

All of the previous health care plans backed by the Senate GOP leadership would have led to 20 million or more people losing coverage, according to the CBO.

Theoretically, this bill should have no chance. Past efforts this summer died in the Senate because a few Republicans could not support the cuts to Medicaid and loss of subsidies that help people pay for insurance coverage.

Cassidy-Graham would cut these subsidies and the Medicaid expansion about as much as those prior efforts.

But at least one key no vote this summer, Sen. Dean Heller of Nevada, is a co-sponsor of this bill.

Arizona Sen. John McCain, who cast the key vote in July that killed the last effort, has indicated he could vote for this version, showing he may be backing off his previous demands for bipartisan support and Senate hearings on health care reform.

Other key Republican votes, such as Sens. Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Shelly Moore Capito of West Virginia, have only so far said they are undecided.

Key elements of the Cassidy-Graham bill include repeal of Obamacare’s insurance subsidies and Medicaid expansion funding on Jan. 1, 2020. At that time, states would have the option to continue a system of health insurance subsidies and Medicaid expansion.

If a state creates an alternate insurance program for those under Medicaid and in the individual health insurance market, they could apply for federal block grants to help.

The federal block grants would be funded from the original Obamacare funds.

But money for any future state insurance subsidies and Medicaid expansion would be significantly less than states receive today. The legislation would spread the funds now being paid to the 31 states that have expanded Medicaid over all 50 states.

Passage of the bill also would create enormous market uncertainty. Health insurers would find themselves participating in Obamacare exchanges that are set to die in two years, raising expectations remaining insurers would pull out.

People 50 to 65 years of age could expect to pay far more for insurance with Obamacare protections removed.

States with relatively low medical costs, skimpy Medicaid benefits and no program expansion would win out. Texas would gain more than any state — $35 billion from 2020 through 2026.

On the other hand, states such as California and New York, with higher medical costs and generous benefits for low-income residents, would lose billions of dollars.