Graham-Cassidy: The GOP’s Latest Healthcare Plan
The latest attempt coming from the Republican Party to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA) featured a bill co-written by Sens. Lindsey Graham (Sc.) and Bill Cassidy (La.), consequently known as the Graham-Cassidy bill. Opposition from Sens. John McCain (Az.), Susan Collins (Me.), and Rand Paul (Ky.) effectively killed the Graham-Cassidy bill, causing it to be pulled from the Senate floor without voting.
The hope of the Graham-Cassidy bill was to unite the GOP. By including a block grant that eliminates the individual mandate of the ACA, funds would be given to the states who would then have discretion on where to allocate them, rather than the required coverage system under the ACA. Graham-Cassidy would also eliminate Medicaid expansion, tax credits, employer mandates, and cost-sharing subsidies. In addition to changing Obama-era policies, the Graham-Cassidy bill would have shuffled additional funding to both Alaska and Maine. Coincidentally, Republican Sens. Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska have voted against every GOP-sponsored healthcare bill since the 2016 election.
Graham-Cassidy was only the most recent bill introduced in a string of efforts by Republican congressional leadership and the Trump administration to repeal President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act. Since the election of Donald Trump as President in November, Speaker Paul Ryan (Wis.) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) have concentrated congressional efforts towards a “repeal and replace” strategy, aiming to eliminate Obamacare and pass a GOP-crafted health care policy at the same time.
The first bill proposed in the Trump-era was introduced on March 6, 2017, as the American Health Care Act (AHCA). With a divided Republican party, the bill underwent prolonged mark-ups before eventually being pulled from the floor altogether. With Democratic opposition unanimous, only three Republican senators needed to vote against the bill for it to fail, given that the Republicans maintain a majority by only two seats. The bills introduced subsequently include the Better Care Reconciliation Act, Obamacare Repeal and Reconciliation Act, and the Health Care Freedom Act. These bills also failed, largely due to the fact that the Republican party is split. Centrist Republicans deemed some of the bills too conservative, while more conservative Republicans called the bills too moderate, nicknaming the AHCA “Obamacare 2.0.”
By the numbers, Graham-Cassidy wasn’t much different than the “repeal and replace” bills that came before it. The bill would have slashed Medicaid spending, eliminated required coverage for preexisting conditions such as asthma or pregnancy, allowed states to waive coverage for mental health care, and would have offered a tax cut for the wealthy.
Senate Maj. Leader McConnell has announced that congressional focus will turn to tax reform as the senate takes a break from healthcare. However, President Trump continues to tweet optimistically about passing new healthcare policy in the future; “We will have the votes for Healthcare but not for the reconciliation deadline of Friday, after which we need 60.” Until the GOP can come together and create a bill that satisfies a wider range of the political spectrum, it appears Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act is here to stay.