Graham-Cassidy

2018 MIDTERM ELECTION

Time: D H M S

My apologies. Between a death in the family and some other personal issues, I'm way behind the eight ball this week. As a result, I'm just now getting around to writing about not one, not two, not three, but FOUR major GOP attacks on the ACA and healthcare in general which either happened or had major developments this week.

Instead of getting even further behind by trying to do a full, detailed take on each of them, I'm going to crib like crazy from other healthcare reporters/articles to cover the gist of each.

#1: GRAHAM-CASSIDY 2.0 (via ThinkProgress):

Republicans renew attempts to repeal Obamacare

A group of Republicans and Washington D.C. think tanks released a proposal Tuesday that aims to resurrect Obamacare repeal. The consistent chatter around the proposal has drawn ire from the White House and GOP leadership, as the midterms are just months away, and repeal efforts haven’t proved to be winning strategies.

 

5/16/18: IMPORTANT UPDATE BELOW.

(sigh) Stop me if you've heard this one before...this is an Op-Ed in the Washington Examiner from a columnist and failed Republican Congressional candidate:

Time and opportunity still exist to replace Obamacare.

...I reported in January that a number of conservative groups, under the leadership of former Sen. Rick Santorum, was working hard to craft a new Obamacare replacement...Behind the scenes, those groups...have continued to meet and tweak their plan, and they seem just a few weeks away from being able to unveil it.

...I listened in on a March 21 conference call among numerous interested parties, and received further updates within the past week from Santorum.

 

Hot Off the Presses, via Kimberly Leonard of the Washington Examiner...

President Trump’s budget plan released Monday endorsed an Obamacare repeal and replace bill that gives funding to states and makes cuts to Medicaid.

...Sens. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and Bill Cassidy, R-La., are behind the legislation that takes Obamacare’s funding for the Medicaid expansion and tax subsidies for lower premiums and gives it to states through block grants. The senators introduced the bill in September along with Sens. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., and Dean Heller, R-Nev.

The bill would end the Medicaid expansion under Obamacare but supporters say states can implement it individually if they want. However, the bill makes cuts to Medicaid overall by capping federal funding per beneficiary.

The bill failed to get enough support in Congress in September, as some senators from expansion states worried about Medicaid cuts and protections for people with pre-existing conditions.

(sigh) One More Time, folks...

 

As you've probably heard fby now, Mitch McConnell has formally/officially pulled the latest incarnation of Trumpcare, aka "Graham-Cassidy" (or "Graham-Cassidy-Heller-Johnson" for those who love hyphens) from being voted on this week before the September 30th reconciliation deadline:

Republican leaders have decided not to vote on Obamacare repeal legislation this week, effectively ending the party’s latest effort to wipe away the 2010 health care law.

When, and whether, they will try again remains to be seen. But for now, a defining cause of the Republican Party, including President Donald Trump, lies in tatters.

And at least for the moment, insurance coverage for many millions of Americans who rely on Medicaid or the Affordable Care Act’s federal subsidies remains intact ― although insurance markets in some states remain unstable, and the Trump administration’s willingness to manage the program remains unclear.

Yesterday was a Graham-Cassidy (or "Grassidy", as former CMS Administrator Andy Slavitt keeps trying to push) Fest, with all sorts of Grassidy-centric happenings, including the one-and-only Senate hearing on the bill; the Congressional Budget Office releasing their preliminary/partial score of G-C (the prior version, not the later version); Senator Susan Collins releasing her statement opposing the bill; and last night's CNN healthcare debate between Senators Graham & Cassidy vs. Senators Sanders and Klobucher. I might write something about these items later today, but right now I want to look at another development.

Last week I broke the story (later picked up by Axios, NY Magazine and Vox.com) that the Graham-Cassidy bill would make thousands of current insurance policies illegal starting on January 1, 2018...just 98 days from now.

Why? Because, as noted at the link, while the current ACA structure (exchanges, tax credits, etc) would stay mostly in place for 2 more years, some provisions would be repealed immediately...including a nationwide ban on any exchange policy offering abortion coverage.

This morning JP Massar (who called my attention to the 1/1/18 effective date the first time) inquired as to whether that had changed with the new version of G-C. As you can see on pages 2 & 3 of the new bill...nope. It’s still in place.

 

Late Sunday night, Axios managed to get ahold of a copy of the revised version of the Graham-Cassidy bill...and it's a complete and utter travesty.

Here's direct links to the bill itself and to the GOP's table showing what they claim would be the net federal funding changes from 2020-2026 for each state relative to current law...but they pulled one hell of a fast one.

Here's the original table...

 

it's pretty rare for the entire medical, hospital and insurance industry to agree on just about anything...and yet here we are (emphasis in the original):

The following statement was jointly released on September 23, 2017 by the American Medical Association, American Academy of Family Physicians, American Hospital Association, Federation of American Hospitals, America's Health Insurance Plans and the BlueCross BlueShield Association regarding the Graham-Cassidy-Heller-Johnson legislation.

We represent the nation's doctors, hospitals and health plans. Collectively, our organizations include hundreds of thousands of individual physicians, thousands of hospitals, and hundreds of health plans that serve tens of millions of American patients, consumers and employers every day across the United States.

The past few weeks, while trying to push the Godawful "Graham-Cassidy" ACA repeal bill, Louisiana Republican Senator Bill Cassidy has used the following as one of his standard talking points:

.@BillCassidy shares the story of a Louisiana man paying more than $40,000 for his special needs son’s health care under Obamacare. pic.twitter.com/AaZ0IQIfF7

— GOP (@GOP) September 21, 2017

He's posted several variants of the "$40,000 premium" tweet of late.

The tweet above includes an embedded Twitter video, which I've reposted to YouTube:

 

It's time to once again dust off the Three-Legged Stool visual aid to help explain just what the Graham-Cassidy bill would do to the individual insurance market. It's important to note that none of this has anything to do with Medicaid (expansion or traditional), the group market, Medicare and so forth; just the individual market.

Once again, here's what the "3-Legged Stool" was supposed to look like under the Affordable Care Act:

Here's what it actually looks like today, with some rather obvious gaps in the red (enrollee responsibility) and green (government responsibility) legs:

Haley Byrd of The Independent Journal Review has the skinny about the latest attempt to bribe Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski into voting for the Graham-Cassidy bill:

  • Alaska (along with Hawaii) will continue to receive Obamacare’s premium tax credits while they are repealed for all other states. It appears this exemption will not affect Alaska receiving its state allotment under the new block grant in addition to the premium tax credits.
  • Delays implementation of the Medicaid per capita caps for Alaska and Hawaii for years in which the policy would reduce their funding below what they would have received in 2020 plus CPI-M [Consumer Price Index for Medical Care].
  • Provides for an increased federal Medicaid matching rate (FMAP) for both Alaska and Hawaii."

Well, now.

Bird doesn't have the actual legislative text, but they threw Hawaii in there as well (not to win their votes...Dems Brian Schatz and Mazie Hirono are solid NOs no matter what). That means that the wording is probably along the lines of:

The Congressional Budget Office stated that they won't be able to provide a full score of the projected 10-year impact of the Graham-Cassidy bill for "at least several weeks". Instead, they expect to provide a partial score, focusing purely on the budget-related stuff necessary to "count" towards Senate reconciliation voting rules "early next week".

What won't be included are some pretty damned important details, like:

  • Impact on the federal deficit
  • Impact on insurance premiums, and of course...
  • Impact on the number of people with health insurance coverage

Unfortunately, Mitch McConnell and Senate Republicans are insisting on squeezing the vote on Graham-Cassidy through within the next 10 days, before the fiscal year ends on Sept. 30th, since that's the only way they have a chance at passing it using 50 votes (after the 30th, they would require 60 votes, which of course they have no chance at getting).

Here's the latest enrollment data from the Louisiana Department of Health.

I've embedded screen shots below, but there's various interactive stuff you can do at the site itself; LA did a very nice job, I'd love it if every state put up a similar "dashboard" style website.

In short:

  • 434,594 Louisianans enrolled in Medicaid via ACA expansion
  • 126,229 have received preventative care
  • 22,058 women have received breast cancer screenings
    • 225 women have been diagnosed with breast cancer as a result of ACA Medicaid expansion
  • 13,994 adults have received a colon cancer screening
    • 4,337 have averted colon cancer by having polyps removed
    • 199 have been diagnosed with colon cancer thanks to ACA Medicaid expansion
  • 3,774 have been diagnosed with diabetes
  • 9,575 have been diagnosed with hypertension
  • 32,912 are receiving outpatient mental health services
  • 6,025 are receiving inpatient mental health services
  • 5,559 are receiving outpatient substance abuse services
  • 6,026 are receiving residential substance abuse services

 

As NBC News reporter Hallie Jackson notes, there are too many quotable lines to count in this Vox piece, in which Jeff Stein tracked down 9 Republican Senators to ask them what the hell the purpose of the Graham-Cassidy bill actually is. The responses pretty much say it all.

Jeff Stein: Senator, I wanted to ask you for a policy-based explanation for why you’re moving forward with the Graham-Cassidy proposal. What problems will this solve in the health care system?

Pat Roberts: That — that is the last stage out of Dodge City...I’m from Dodge City. So it’s the last stage out to do anything. Restoring decision-making back to the states is always a good idea, but this is not the best possible bill — this is the best bill possible under the circumstances.

If we do nothing, I think it has a tremendous impact on the 2018 elections. And whether or not Republicans still maintain control and we have the gavel.

Jeff Stein: But why does this bill make things better for Americans? How does it help?

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