- The Washington Times
Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Four Senate Republicans unveiled a last-ditch effort Wednesday to repeal Obamacare, calling for scrapping federal insurance mandates and instead sending the health law’s money to the states, letting them decide what to do with their share.

Sen. Lindsey Graham said the plan offers Republicans one last chance at repeal before they reach a Sept. 30 deadline to get something done under the 2017 budget, which helps the GOP avoid a Democratic filibuster.


The South Carolina Republican said that unless the Senate approves his bill, the debate could shift instead to liberal Democrats’ new proposal, also released Wednesday, to impose more government control through a single-payer system.

“It’s the best and last hope for the Republican Party to show that we have ideas, and that our ideas are better than our friends’ on the other side,” Mr. Graham said, flanked by co-sponsors Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, Dean Heller of Nevada and Ron Johnson of Wisconsin.

Under the plan, Obamacare money that pays for an expansion of Medicaid and that subsidizes coverage for many of those who buy insurance on the exchanges would be pooled and instead given to states as block grants. The states would then tailor the money to their own health care plans.

Sponsors said it is a win-win for President Trump, who promised repeal during the campaign, and congressional Republicans who’ve clamored to devolve power from Washington to the states.

Mr. Trump, who seethed over Congress’ failure to repeal Obamacare before turning to tax reform, applauded the bill as a potential way forward, though he didn’t say whether he will actively push for it.

“As I have continued to say, inaction is not an option, and I sincerely hope that Senators Graham and Cassidy have found a way to address the Obamacare crisis,” the president said in a statement.

The bill would immediately repeal Obamacare’s individual mandate requiring people to get covered or pay a tax and its rule requiring large employers to provide coverage or face major penalties. It also scraps the 2010 law’s tax on medical device sales.

“We take the dollars that are left and we split it among the states,” Mr. Cassidy said, saying the money will be allocated based on a complex formula that accounts for population and enrollment.

It remains to be seen whether the plan has legs.

Mr. Graham said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told him to “go get 50 votes” to show the bill could pass before he’ll commit floor time.

Mr. McConnell suffered embarrassment earlier this year when his own repeal efforts fell short in two separate go-arounds.

Democrats said the new GOP plan is as bad as Mr. McConnell’s earlier efforts, and would still leave millions more people uninsured.

“According to most reporting, it would take away even more benefits, and hurt average Americans even more than the previous bills that were defeated,” said Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer.

Some governors say they fear their states would lose out if block grants replaced Obamacare’s open-ended entitlements.

Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker, a Republican, told a Senate panel last week the plan would “dramatically, negatively” affect his state.

The left-leaning Center on Budget and Policy Priorities estimated that under the block-grant model, states would receive 17 percent less money in 2026 under the block-grant model than they would under Obamacare.

Bill sponsors, though, said their legislation would level the playing field between states that expanded Medicaid coverage under Obamacare and those that refused the expansion, who were counting on the GOP to repeal the law altogether.

Conservatives groups offered lukewarm praise for the new bill, saying it revived the repeal push but would leave tough decisions about chipping away at Obamacare’s care mandates to the states.

“Based on what we know right now, Graham-Cassidy would make some improvements over the status quo but it would not actually deliver on the Republicans’ seven-year campaign promise to repeal and replace Obamacare,” said Heritage Action CEO Michael Needham.


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