At a news conference on September 13, Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) discussed his plans for a new version of ‘Trumpcare,’ the replacement health-insurance system planned if the Republicans do manage to put together votes for a repeal of Obamacare.
Obamacare remains the law of the land because of the rather spectacular failure of the Republicans in the U.S. Senate to do just that this July.
The latest hope for an exhumation of Trumpcare is called Cassidy-Graham, a joint effort of Senator Graham and his colleague Bill Cassidy (R-La.). The gist of Cassidy-Graham is an end to the existing law’s individual insurance mandate, a scaling back of the plans for Medicaid expansion built into existing law, and a replacement of tax subsidies with block grants to states. The states would then be allowed to use their grant money to keep their present Obamacare program, or repair or replace it as each state thinks best. The plan would leave in place existing protections for people with pre-existing medical conditions.
One of the many controversial features of Cassidy-Graham is the formula by which the administrators would decide what size block grants go to which states. According to estimates of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, for nine states in particular the formula would lead to severe cuts: California, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, and Virginia.
Left Wing View
To many on the left, including both the center left and the further left, the defeat of Obamacare repeal proposals in July was a hopeful sign that the political tide of Trumpism can indeed be resisted.
Caroline Randall Williams, writing in The New York Times as an op-ed contributor said that John McCain’s thumbs-down gesture during the critical vote in the Senate in July moved her to tears of relief.
It was a rare victory this year, which makes the issue of this exhumation of repeal-and-replace even more urgent than it is on its substantive merits: and the left is predictably inclined to fight to the full extent of its abilities and wile to keep this issue in its “W” column.
The language the ‘resistant’ politicians use is full of drama, as where Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) says that the bill will “plunge a dagger deep into the heart of Medicaid.”
Jordan Weissman, writing for Slate, lays out in some depth the center-left case for preserving Obamacare, with reference to this latest threat. The bill’s funding formula, Weissman writes, “is designed not only to shrink federal spending on health care but to shift dollars from predominantly Democratic states that expanded Medicaid under Obamacare to predominantly Republican states that did not.” Those states that are most likely to want to preserve Obamacare are the least likely to receive the means that will enable them to do so.
Right Wing View
Many on the right are themselves wary of putting much hope into this final push for repeal-and-replace. In the words of Robert Verbruggen of National Review, they wish “best of luck to Lindsey Graham and his three co-sponsors,” but add, “they’ll need it.”[In addition to Sen. Cassidy, the co-sponsors referenced include Ron Johnson (R-WI) and Dean Heller (R-Nev.)]
The current budget resolution expires at the end of the month of September, so at that time (again in Verbruggen’s words) “any serious possibility of repealing Obamacare this year” will likewise disappear.
Some conservatives put up a jaunty air of defiance. Collin Rugg, for example, tweets that Liberalism is a “mental disease … terrorizing the minds of many Americans” and suggests that Trumpcare is the cure. Rugg is the co-founder of a website selling pro-Trump tee-shirts, hats, etc., grandly called the New American Era.
Breitbart is doing what it can to get some enthusiasm and momentum behind the exhumation. It urges Trump’s loyalists around the country to “melt [the] phone lines to Congress.” It also wants the world to know that the usual conservative policy groups, such as the Susan B. Antony List and the Family Research Council, have signed on.
One wrinkle: were this a matter of standard operating procedure, the Congressional Budget Office would “score” the bill, giving a best-available take on its likely fiscal consequences, before votes were taken. But SOP won’t be followed. The CBO says it doesn’t have time to score the bill fully by the end of the month. It will offer only a “preliminary assessment” which will not include such details as how the bill will affect insurance premiums or the number of the uncovered.