Alice Stewart: Graham-Cassidy bill, while not perfect, is in so many ways the middle ground that Republicans and Democrats alike have been calling for
There's no reason the Senate should not be able to get this done; yet some senators are unwisely still dragging their feet, she writes
Editor’s Note: Alice Stewart is a CNN political commentator and former communications director for Ted Cruz’s 2016 presidential campaign. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.
There’s nothing like the prospect of President Trump making deals with Democrats to light a fire under the GOP.
This week’s renewed Republican support for the Graham-Cassidy bill is a sign that they are ready to repeal and replace Obamacare and deliver on seven years of their campaign promises.
Ever since Democrats rammed Obamacare through Congress, they have fought tooth and nail to protect it. According to a recent poll conducted by Politico and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, GOP voters have made it clear that it is long past time we reject the status quo and find a lasting solution that solves the health care crisis that many say Obamacare caused.
This bill, while not perfect, is in so many ways the middle ground that Republicans and Democrats alike have been calling for.
Its genesis was a conversation in the Senate barber shop between Sen. Lindsey Graham and former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pennsylvania) back in the spring. Sen. Santorum has been working behind the scenes to help draft the bill and garner support from GOP holdouts.
Action on Graham-Cassidy is imperative before September 30, the Senate’s deadline to use the budget reconciliation process to pass health care legislation using a simple majority. If Republicans want to take this necessary step toward undoing the damage caused by Obamacare, they have until then to do so without running the risk of being blocked by a partisan filibuster.
To continue to kick the can down the road – as Congress has done over the last several years – would be a complete abdication of duty by the lawmakers people in this country have entrusted to fix this problem. As I heard on the campaign trail during the 2016 presidential campaign, health care reform is a top priority for working Americans.
The crux of Obamacare’s failure was hubris; Democrats had the audacity to presume that Washington knew better than states and individuals when it came to the diversity of patient needs across the country.
The most promising feature of the Graham-Cassidy bill is that is turns that premise around and gives control back to state governors to decide the best way to fund health care in their states. By annually providing funds with block grants, this bill would give states the flexibility to address the unique needs of their residents.
It shouldn’t shock anyone that the needs of the uninsured in Michigan, for example, might be vastly different from the needs of patients in a state like Texas, with different populations and statewide factors impacting the cost and availability of medical treatment.
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Graham-Cassidy also repeals some of the onerous taxes and regulations imposed by Obamacare, expands the limits on health savings accounts and makes good on the promise to protect patients with pre-existing conditions. While the Obamacare regulations governing pre-existing conditions would be waived, states would still be required to provide coverage to everyone.
There’s no reason the Senate should not be able to get this done, yet some senators are unwisely still dragging their feet. In a strong show of just how important it is this bill gets passed, the Trump administration has dispatched Vice President Mike Pence, Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price and Seema Verma, the administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, to work with the Senate this week.
It’s urgent to get this done and a chart a new course for the millions of Americans who cannot afford coverage for their families and face uncertainty as they watch Obamacare collapse.
The latest estimates project more than 45% of the counties in America could have a single insurer or none next year, and the CBO expects premiums to rise another 15% – on top of the 105% increase we’ve seen in 20 states over the last four years. Saddling families with unaffordable premiums and leaving nearly half the country with no choice shows this failed, partisan law has become the problem, not the solution.
It’s past time our senators take action and make this change our country needs. It’s time for the promises made to become promises kept.