For the third or fourth time this year, Republicans are supposedly mobilizing behind an Obamacare “repeal” bill that will actually weave its way through the complex halls of the legislature to land on President Trump’s desk before September 30. The bill, which is the brainchild of Sen. Lindsey Graham and Sen. Bill Cassidy, is not a true repeal bill – it keeps many of the spending provisions laid out in the existing infrastructure – but it would go a long ways towards easing the regulations and mandates currently burdening Americans. Supported strongly by Nevada’s Dean Heller and former Sen. Rick Santorum, the bill would do away with the individual and employer mandates and replace existing subsidy programs with a system of block grants to the states that need them.
The Republicans who support the bill say it’s the closest Congress can get to a law that can actually pass both houses of Congress through the reconciliation process. Proponents say it would put the management of state marketplaces back in the hands of local government, eliminating much of the fraud and waste that’s currently jamming up the works. The hope is that not only will this alleviate much of the Washington-based control over healthcare, but that it will also lead to an open insurance market that will give consumers much more choice than they have right now. Additionally – and not inconsequentially – it could be the only way to save Obamacare from the death spiral without a multi-billion-dollar federal bailout.
Of course, not everyone in the GOP-controlled Senate thinks this bill is the answer to what ails the American healthcare system. Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky has been outspoken with his criticism, saying that the bill does not go far enough to reduce spending and eradicate the big-government regulations that define the Affordable Care Act.
“This isn’t a repeal,” Paul said Tuesday. “This is keeping Obamacare and redistributing the proceeds. So, this is not a repeal bill. This is sort of, ‘Hey, we’ll take Obamacare, replace it with Obamacare, but we’re going to let the states have a little more power in how we spend it.’”
The White House and Republican congressional leaders, however, say this is the last, best chance to get something done on healthcare this year, and they are busy rounding up the votes to put it through to the House.
Will they succeed? We can’t say we’re holding our breath. Paul is against it and unlikely to come around, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska is under considerable pressure from that state’s governor to vote against it, and John McCain remains a wildcard. If the party couldn’t even get “skinny repeal” through earlier this summer, it’s hard to see how they would be able to pass this bill, which goes much further.