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GOP proposes new healthcare bill, reignites debate

September 22, 2017

Sens. Lindsay Graham (R-SC) and Bill Cassidy (R-LA) have penned the Republican Party’s latest attempt to repeal one of the most prominent parts of former President Barack Obama’s legacy: the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. The bill, better known as Obamacare, has been under fire since its inception, culminating in a dead-of-night vote session that saw the GOP’s last attempt at a repeal foiled at the last minute by three dissenting votes. The newest attempt, colloquially referred to as the Graham-Cassidy bill, may just be the most ambitious of any attempt made at eliminating Obamacare yet, detailing a laundry list of cuts to Medicaid expansion, cost-sharing subsidies, tax credits, and a full scrapping of the individual and employer mandates that served as one of the key planks of Obamacare’s original language.

The bill, which President Donald Trump has promised to sign if it reaches his desk, marks a key shift in the healthcare debate, just weeks after Democrats celebrated a rare legislative victory and assumed the issue to be dead. In the aftermath, Democrats like Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA) turned their eyes to more progressive healthcare proposals like the Medicare for All bill, proposed by Sen. Bernard Sanders (Ind.-VT). However, with Trump encouraging another shot at repealing Obamacare, the GOP seems to be doing all it can to whip votes for a bill that can only lose two votes from the Republican side, with Kentucky Senator Rand Paul declaring himself an early “no” vote.

All the hoopla to pass a bill that hasn’t even been evaluated for a full report from the bipartisan Congressional Budget Office comes from a loophole allowing for major budgetary reform and a new healthcare plan to pass with a simple majority, rather than a supermajority and an extra 16 votes the GOP will not find from Democrats. The budget reconciliation bill, the source of the aforementioned loophole, expired September 30th, leaving the GOP with little time to iron out intra-party disagreements over particulars. With the sting from the failure of the last bill in mind, the Graham-Cassidy bill includes a host of spending powers allocated to states who stand to benefit from the slashing of federal subsidies. Instead, block grants would be awarded to states to spend, or not spend, as they see fit. However, the total sum of these block grants is significantly below what would have been allocated by planned Medicaid expansions under Obamacare, and would expire in 2026.

For Democrats, the bill represents the same kind of “Wealthcare” legislation that has been lampooned by the party since Obamacare repeal talk began. For Republicans, the bill represents what could be the final attempt at following through on a seven-year promise to repeal Obamacare before midterm elections in 2018. With Sens. Murkowski (R-AK), Collins (R-ME), and McCain (R-AZ) serving as returning roadblocks from the last failed attempt, the current bill seems destined for yet another dramatic policy showdown between increasingly frustrated Senators.

Anthony Adams
Political Editor

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