Bill Pushed by Sens. Graham, Cassidy, Heller and Johnson Would Also Impose Draconian Cuts on Medicaid
Washington – Despite claims of a bipartisan health care bill, Republican Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Bill Cassidy (R-La.), Dean Heller (R-Nev.) and Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) today unveiled a measure that contains most, if not all, of the austere provisions that were housed in previous bills to repeal the landmark Affordable Care Act (ACA).
The new measure, for example, would eliminate the ACA’s key premium tax credits and cost sharing reductions, and the ACA’s integral individual and employer mandates, which ensure robust market participation needed to assure that those with pre-existing conditions are able to access quality health care. The Graham-Cassidy proposal would also end Medicaid expansion by providing a time-limited block grant that would expire in 2026, leaving states with no federal assistance to provide health care for the 11 million low-income individuals and families who have benefited from Medicaid’s expansion. On top of that, the Graham-Cassidy measure imposes a Medicaid per capita cap that was a part of the Senate’s so-called Better Care Reconciliation Act (BCRA). The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimated that the Medicaid per capita cap would quickly result in hundreds of billions of dollars cut from Medicaid ever year. In a cynical effort to win votes in the Senate, the new proposal shifts funding from densely populated states, such as California that expanded Medicaid, to smaller, sparsely populated states that refused to expand Medicaid.
National Health Law Program (NHeLP) Executive Director Elizabeth G. Taylor said the Graham-Cassidy proposal is an unfortunate and needlessly partisan attempt to rollback health care gains for previously uninsured people, especially for the nation’s vulnerable populations.
“Senator Cassidy claims this new bill allows states to keep the Affordable Care Act if they wish; that is a remarkably dubious claim,” Taylor said. “There is no way for states to operate the ACA without its tax credits and its mechanism to ensure that people with pre-existing conditions can access affordable care. This is another effort to repeal the ACA and radically gut Medicaid. It is stunning that after the failed attempts to ram a partisan repeal bill through Congress, there are still senators trying to destroy our health care system for political gains. Instead, they should be joining bi-partisan efforts to make the system stronger. Republican Senator Lamar Alexander, for example, joined with Democratic Senator Patty Murray to conduct hearings on how to stabilize the ACA marketplaces so that insurers have confidence enough to stay in them, something governors and health insurers nationwide are pleading with lawmakers and the president to take positive action on. Graham-Cassidy is a bill we have seen before, and it is worse the second time around.”
NHeLP Managing Attorney of the D.C. office Mara Youdelman described the new proposal as the most cynical approach yet and the most mean-spirited.
“People are calling for bipartisan action to improve the ACA, and how that message could be missed by this group of senators is beyond me and likely a lot of others,” Youdelman said. “There is no appetite for austere policy that caps and cuts Medicaid, which is exactly what the Graham-Cassidy bill proposes. These proposals should be relegated to the dustbin of history. Let us move to meaningful, forward-looking discussion on how to make the ACA stronger. The evidence is that the ACA is improving lives, so Graham-Cassidy makes no sense.”
Youdelman added that the senators’ bill also includes “ending Medicaid expansion with a block grant, and the same per capita caps on Medicaid that the CBO score said would end the funding structure of Medicaid as we know it. This would lead to rising uninsured rates and greater health care costs for all of us. Some commentators have noted that the Graham-Cassidy bill is arguably the most radical repeal version yet.”
Please contact NHeLP’s Director of Communications Jeremy Leaming for further comment on Graham-Cassidy ACA repeal bill.