By: Zack Duvall
The latest measure by Senate Republicans to repeal and replace the failing Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, is set to be introduced for a formal vote by lawmakers sometime this week.
However, news of the potential vote comes ahead of mounting criticism from even some Republicans who are unsure about the bill’s ability to provide coverage for the millions of Americans who will depend on it and that the bill will not lead to further unchecked increases to the national deficit.
Among the names of GOP Senators who have voiced opposition to the proposal is Susan Collins from Maine who has repeatedly voiced her concerns over the bill’s cancellation of the Medicaid expansion programs that started under the Obamacare law to allow the coverage to include low-income individuals.
“It’s very difficult for me to envision a scenario where I would end up voting for this bill. I have a number of serious reservations about it.” Collins said during an interview with CNN that aired on Sunday.
She went on to mention that aside from the cuts to Medicaid expansion programs, she wanted to see an approach to passing healthcare legislation similar to that of the HELP Committee, a bi-partisan committee set-up to facilitate dialogue between the two sides on the healthcare debate. The HELP Committee was headed up by Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and Senator Patty Murray (D-WA).
“You, know my focus is on improving our healthcare system, and what I would like to see us do is return to the very good work that the HELP Committee was doing under Senator Murray and Senator Alexander. I see the work we’re doing in the HELP Committee as the path forward.” Collins went on to say in the Sunday interview.
The committee was disbanded last week after Alexander came out in full-support of the Graham-Cassidy bill, a move that Democrats took to social media to criticize.
“I am disappointed that Republican leaders have decided to freeze this bi-partisan approach and are trying to jam through a partisan Trumpcare bill, but I am confident that we can reach a deal if we keep working together- and I am committed to getting that done.” Murray, the leading Democrat on the committee said last week.
Another key Republican to take to various media outlets to express his reservation over the new bill was Texas Senator Ted Cruz who said that along with his vote, he believed that GOP leadership had also not secured the vote of Utah Senator Mike Lee either.
“Right now, they don’t have my vote, and I don’t think they have Mike Lee’s vote either.” Cruz said during a statement he made during the Texas Tribune Festival on Sunday. He said his main concerns with the legislation are that the bill’s supporters haven’t proven that it is a “solid” replacement to Obamacare or that the bill goes far enough to lower premiums.
Cruz did say that he would be in favor for amendments he has formally proposed that he claims will make sure that costs stay low for those who need it and said that his proposals were included in a previous draft of the bill but have since been taken out. He declined to offer exactly what his proposals were and how they would keep costs low during the interview.
The core structure of the Graham-Cassidy bill does in fact keep many of the taxes associated with the current Obamacare law, but would give that money back to the state’s in a block-grant format in order for state officials to set-up healthcare systems based on what each state’s needs were.
The bill would also cancel all Obamacare mandates, including the employer mandate,end the Medicaid expansion by the year 2020 and allow for federal waivers that would allow insurers to charge slightly higher premiums for pre-existing conditions in an effort to off-set overall marketplace burden and costs.
Supporters of the bill are adamant however, that this does not exclude people with pre-existing conditions and that subsidies and credits would still be available for those who need them to obtain coverage.
With 52 Republican Senators currently holding office, the GOP can only afford to lose two votes in support of the new legislation and with Rand Paul and John McCain also in vocal opposition to the bill, the numbers are turning against the GOP.
Paul, who has been critical of past measures by GOP leaders to pass a new healthcare law to replace the ACA told reporters he could not support the block-grant format of the bill and said that if the grants were dropped he could possibly get behind the proposal.
“I don’t think block-granting Obamacare- It doesn’t make it go away. It’s not a repeal.” Paul told Chuck Todd during an interview on Meet The Press.
After Saturday, if no bill is passed, procedural rules call for the needed number of votes for any piece of legislation to be passed to raise from 50 to 60, and the Democrats gain the ability to filibuster any proposed legislation the GOP could put forward. A deadline that many thought would pressure Senate Republicans to reach a deal on the matter of healthcare.
Despite all of this, bill co-author, Lindsay Graham (R-SC), took to media outlets on Sunday to voice his support of the bill and optimism that GOP membership would come together to get the bill passed.
“We’re moving forward, and we’ll see what happens next week. I’m very excited about it. We finally found an alternative to Obamacare that makes since.” Graham told Fox News.
The Congressional Budget Office is expected to release its preliminary scores of the Graham-Cassidy bill sometime this week, something that Graham noted could change some of his colleagues minds who may be having doubts about the measure.