GOP pulls plug on latest health-care bill
In a major setback for one of their top legislative priorities, Senate Republicans abandoned their latest effort to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act this week, after key GOP lawmakers refused to back the plan. The bill crafted by Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Bill Cassidy (R-La.) would have replaced most of Obamacare’s funding with smaller block grants that states could use to create their own health-care programs. The legislation appeared to gain momentum in recent weeks, but GOP leaders scrapped a planned vote after Sen. Susan Collins of Maine came out against the legislation, joining Sens. John McCain of Arizona and Rand Paul of Kentucky in opposition. That left Republicans with just 49 votes, one short of the 50 they needed to pass the bill under special budget reconciliation rules that expire on Sept. 30.
Collins called the bill “deeply flawed,”noting that it eroded protections for people with preexisting conditions and cut more than $1 trillion from the Medicaid program between 2020 and 2036, leaving millions with reduced or nonexistent coverage. Republicans vowed to revive their repeal efforts in 2018, likely through another reconciliation bill that wouldn’t need Democratic votes. “It took 18 months for [Democrats] to pass Obamacare,” Graham said. “It’s going to take a while for us to replace it.”
What the columnists said
Yet again, Republicans have failed the conservative movement, said Deroy Murdock in NationalReview.com. Because of three senators’ quibbles—McCain didn’t like the fact that Graham-Cassidy lacked bipartisan support, Paul that it didn’t do quite enough to roll back the Affordable Care Act—Obamacare remains intact. This defeat will kill the base’s enthusiasm going into the 2018 midterms. “If repeatedly campaigning hard for Republican candidates achieves so little, why knock ourselves out a year from now?”
Republicans have a simple problem: They can’t come up with a health-care bill that anyone likes, said Ezra Klein in Vox.com. The GOP has campaigned for years on the idea that Obamacare covers too few people, and those who are covered pay too much for too little. Americans do want better health care, but so far every Republican alternative has covered millions fewer people and offered even sparser benefits. So while “Republicans routinely deride Obamacare as a catastrophic failure, it is nevertheless setting a benchmark none of their plans can clear.”
Repeal may be dead for now, but Republicans have other tools to undermine Obamacare, said Margot Sanger-Katz in The New York Times. The Trump administration has hinted that it might withhold routine payments to insurers that reduce the cost of coverage for low-income Americans. It has already slashed the “budget for outreach and enrollment assistance for possible Obamacare customers.” Insurers now say premiums on the individual marketplace may double in some areas, in part because of uncertainty over administration policy. “Even absent a legislative overhaul, Obamacare’s markets will suffer.”