The GOP’s Last-Ditch Effort to Partially Repeal Obamacare

By Rachel del Guidice, reporter for The Daily Signal.

Republican senators are pitching one last-ditch effort to repeal Obamacare regulations before a Sept. 30 deadline.

A bill, drafted by Republican Sens. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, Dean Heller of Nevada, and Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, along with former Republican Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, would repeal both Obamacare’s individual and employer mandates.

The bill, released Sept. 13, would also help give states the freedom to waive Obamacare regulations, protects patients that have pre-existing conditions, and gives block grants to states by “equalizing the treatment between Medicaid expansion and non-expansion States through an equitable block-grant distribution,” according to Cassidy’s website.

The bill, according to Ed Haislmaier, a senior research fellow at The Heritage Foundation’s Center for Health Policy Studies, “takes the money that is currently being spent on providing subsidies for people [buying coverage on the exchange], plus most of the money, most of the extra funding, for expanding Medicaid,” Haislmaier said in an interview with The Daily Signal.

This new form of distribution is “designed to change the incentives in the program for the states because that way, if the program has fraud or waste, the state is stuck with the extra spending,” Haislmaier said, adding:

If the state runs the program efficiently and cracks down on fraud and waste, then the state pockets the savings because … how much does the state have to add on top of what the [federal] government gives them under this new design is dependent on how well the state runs the program.

The Graham-Cassidy-Heller-Johnson legislation would also do away with “the inequity of four states receiving 37 percent of Obamacare funds and brings all states to funding parity by 2026,” according to the Louisiana senator’s website.

The four states are New York, Massachusetts, California, and Maryland, according to Cassidy’s office.

Since Republicans are using a procedure known as budget reconciliation, they will need just 51 votes to pass a health care bill, with Vice President Mike Pence empowered to break a tie.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, who joined fellow Republican Sens. Susan Collins of Maine and John McCain of Arizona to block the “skinny repeal” of Obamacare on July 28, told The Huffington Post on Monday that she is currently undecided on the legislation.

The Hill reported Sept. 6 that McCain has expressed support for the legislation.

Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., does not support the legislation.

“This isn’t a repeal,” Paul said Tuesday, adding:

This is keeping Obamacare and redistributing the proceeds. So, this is not a repeal bill. This is sort of, ‘Hey, we’ll take Obamacare, replace it with Obamacare, but we’re going to let the states have a little more power in how we spend it.’

House Speaker Paul Ryan called the legislation “our best, last chance to get repeal-and-replace done,” CNN reported.

If the package passes the Senate, Ryan said he would bring it to the House floor for a vote.

He called the bill “a far greater improvement over the status quo,” CNN reported.

The legislation would need to be voted on by Sept. 30, as the Senate parliamentarian ruled Sept. 1 the ability to use reconciliation expires at the end of this month, the Washington Examiner reported.

Ryan Ellis, a senior tax adviser at the Family Business Coalition, told The Daily Signal in an interview that the legislation gives more freedom to states.

“I think the basic parameters, as I see it—without characterizing it as good or bad, but just sort of looking at it—[as] ‘What does it do?’” Ellis said. “It basically block-grants Obamacare to the states, is the headline that I would explain to somebody in an elevator.”

The idea is more of the federalist persuasion, Ellis said.

Is is full Obamacare repeal? No, it’s not, but if you ask conservatives in general, if you can’t repeal a program, ‘How do you feel about devolving it to the states?’, most conservatives in general would say that’s a pretty good idea …

If you can’t repeal it as a conservative, how do you feel about letting the states administer it, run it, have it as a second-best option? Historically, that has been a pretty good second-best option for conservatives.

*To read this piece on The Daily Signal website, click here.

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