The Senate has until Sept. 30 to pass budgetary legislation with a simple majority vote. That’s less than one week, just enough time to squeeze in another repeal-and-replace Obamacare effort.
In July, a four-part GOP series on repealing and replacing Obamacare failed to move beyond the Senate floor. First, there was the American Health Care Act, which was dead on arrival in the Senate after passing the House.
Then, there was two versions of the Better Care Reconciliation Act, which deregulated the insurance market.
Next was the Obamacare Repeal and Reconciliation Act, which failed to produce a replacement plan.
Last came the Health Care Freedom Act or “skinny repeal” bill, which was historically defeated by Republican Sens. Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and John McCain of Arizona.
Now, the Senate GOP has found new potential in the fight to end Obamacare in the Graham-Cassidy Bill. Sponsored by Sens. Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina, and Bill Cassidy, R-Louisiana, the new Republican plan to repeal the Affordable Care Act has come under fire for its layout on preexisting conditions and Medicaid funding.
Essentially, Republicans in favor of less government interference in health care say this bill is weak middle ground that will make things ultimately worse, whereas Democrats are concerned with how the bill increases the burden of preexisting conditions and allows states to further evade responsibility for expanding Medicaid.
The Graham-Cassidy bill would reintroduce preexisting conditions to the individual insurance market. This allows insurers to charge sick people — and all women with reproductive organs, under this bill specifically — with higher premiums or deny them insurance altogether.
The bill would also prove disastrous for the Medicaid program, a hybrid federal-state insurance program providing health care for 20 percent of all Americans. States that have already expanded Medicaid, such as New York or California, will be punished by deep funding cuts. Other states, like Texas, would be better off.
Medical groups such as the American Medical Association and the Federation of American Hospitals have already urged lawmakers to reject the bill, citing that the bill would weaken patient protections and the individual insurance market.
The National Association of Medicaid Directors has come after the bill as well, saying that a rushed vote on the ambiguous proposal could leave state Medicaid directors scurrying to rebuild their programs’ infrastructure before 2020.
So, will the bill pass? Not likely, for different reasons.
First, there’s not much time to hold a simple majority vote. Under Senate pressure, the Graham-Cassidy bill will likely have to wait for a floor vote until after September, meaning the bill would require 60 votes to pass.
Because at least four Republicans have stepped forward as opposed to this bill, it’s difficult to imagine a scenario in which everything comes together.
Which brings us to the next point: the GOP-sponsored bill receives fellow Republican opponents from both sides of the ideological debate.
Currently, McCain, Collins, and Sen. Rand Paul, R-Kentucky, have all suggested they would vote against it. Murkowski said Friday that she was “leaning against” the bill as well.
Finally, it’s difficult to imagine the Graham-Cassidy bill gaining a momentum in a new era in which the United States is debating single-payer health insurance.
Sure, Sen. Bernie Sanders’s, I-Vermont, “Medicare for All” bill is even less likely to pass than Graham-Cassidy for the time being. But just look at how the American public has moved toward protecting Obamacare and pushing for more progressive health care policy within the past few months.
For example, an August Kaiser Family Foundation poll found that 78 percent of Americans want the Trump administration to “do what they can” to make the law work better.
The Graham-Cassidy bill will have to overcome the health care policymaking failures of the GOP and convince the American public of the bill's merits before becoming the law of the land.