Editorial: Graham-Cassidy plan ruins progress and instills division



U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) speaks as Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.), Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.), Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) listen during a news conference on health care on Wednesday, Sept. 13, 2017 on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. (Olivier Douliery/Abaca Press/TNS)

By The Pitt News Editorial Board

On one side of the aisle, U.S. lawmakers are tackling the issue of health care with the broadest strokes possible by introducing a constitutional amendment that affirms access to health care as a basic human right.

On the other side of the aisle, Republicans are attempting to repeal and replace former President Barack Obama’s health care law one last time before the end of September. The end of the month also brings the end of both the fiscal year and the procedural window that would allow a health care bill to pass with only a simple majority. But the latest bill — named after its writers Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-LA) — is a disaster that would harm millions, and its sponsors should be ashamed.

The Graham-Cassidy bill isn’t the GOP’s first attempt at repealing and replacing “Obamacare.” The House tried, the Senate tried and Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) even tried to repeal parts of the bill without replacing it. But no bill has taken such drastic measures as Graham-Cassidy, which would eliminate “Obamacare” and instead issue block grants to all 50 states.

What this means is that each state would then need to decide how to handle insurance — including whether or not to expand Medicaid and deciding which treatments would be covered. States would no longer be required to subsidize health care for low- and middle-income citizens, as “Obamacare” now requires.

For some states, this could be the pathway to more universal health care and better coverage for all. But for many states — particularly red ones — the result could be disastrous.

The bill was introduced as a way to redistribute what Graham saw as an unfair distribution of money to Democratic states. But the states he’s considering, such as New York and California, received more funding under “Obamacare” because they complied with Medicare expansions. While states like New York and California would be able to use their block grants to provide expanded care, states such as Texas, that lost funding under “Obamacare,” could use their grants inefficiently, which could lead to massive legal confrontations in all 50 states.

This means that the minimum benefits of “Obamacare,” such as prescription drugs, pre- and post-natal care and mental health care, will no longer be the standard — they could become the premium exception. In the end, it’s up to states to decide, but some GOP politicians have already shown signs of wanting to eliminate some of these standards.

Beside starting an ideological battle among the states, the plan is projected to cut funding to states by a total of $41 billion by 2027. The Congressional Budget Office doesn’t have time to analyze the proposal, but some predict it could leave more than 32 million Americans uninsured.

Much like how Sen. Bernie Sanders’ (I-VT) Medicare for All plan distracts from more urgent issues at hand, the Graham-Cassidy bill is an example of partisan politics failing to acknowledge Americans’ daily struggle.

Congress hasn’t hesitated to reject health care proposals in the past — and for once, it’d be the right thing to do.