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Senate could vote on Graham-Cassidy healthcare bill next week

Credit: Architect of the Capitol
Credit: Architect of the Capitol

(WASHINGTON) — Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is hoping to hold a vote on the Graham-Cassidy health care proposal next week, he said in a statement Wednesday.

According to a statement released by McConnell’s office, “it is the Leader’s intention to consider Graham-Cassidy on the floor next week.” That does not mean a vote will definitely happen on the controversial bill. A number of Republican senators have been non-committal on the proposal.

Republicans have until September 30 to vote on a health care bill under budget reconciliation, which would allow them to pass a bill with a simple majority, or 50 votes, instead of the normally required 60.

Speaker of the House Paul Ryan said Wednesday that if the Senate can pass the measure, his caucus would also act next week. “If the Senate acts, we will act as well,” he told reporters at a Coast Guard news conference in Miami.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., tried to rally Democrats to block the bill at her Wednesday news conference. “This is really an emergency,” she said. “We’ve got to stop this bill.”

Graham-Cassidy would remove the individual and employer mandates to sign up for health insurance, a pair of tax penalties tied to the Affordable Care Act that remain unpopular with voters. It would also roll back the medical device tax and repeal funding for Planned Parenthood for one year.

Experts believe that health insurance premiums for older and disabled Americans would go up under the Graham-Cassidy proposal, in part because of cuts to Medicaid expansion.

A powerful trade organization for health insurance companies came out against the plan on Wednesday as well. American Health Insurance Plans — which represents Anthem, Cigna, Humana and Harvard Pilgrim — says it will not support the bill, because it does not meet six criteria:

1. “Reforms must stabilize the individual insurance market”
2. “Medicaid reforms must ensure the program is efficient, effective, and has adequate funding to meet the health care needs of beneficiaries”
3. “Reforms must guarantee access to coverage for ALL Americans, including those with pre-existing conditions”
4. “Reforms must provide sufficient time for everyone to prepare – from doctors, hospitals, and health plans to consumers, patients, and policymakers.”
5. “Reforms should improve affordability by eliminating taxes and fees that only serve to raise health care costs or reduce benefits for everyone.”
6. “Reforms should rely on the strengths of the private market, not build a bridge to single payer systems.”

“The Graham-Cassidy-Heller-Johnson proposal fails to meet these guiding principles,” Marilyn Tavenner, President and CEO of AHIP said Wednesday. She added that the bill would “have real consequences on consumers and patients by further destabilizing the individual market; cutting Medicaid; pulling back on protections for pre-existing conditions; not ending taxes on health insurance premiums and benefits; and potentially allowing government-controlled, single-player health care to grow.”

Insurance company Blue Cross Blue Shield also expressed “significant concerns” with the bill on Wednesday.

Still, President Donald Trump remains optimistic about the bill, saying “I think it has a very good chance.”

“I believe that Graham-Cassidy will do it the right way,” he added, saying that the proposal has “tremendous support from Republicans.”

“Whether it happens or not something’s going to happen and it’s going to be positive,” the president said. “[The Affordable Care Act] can not make it. At some point the Senate is going to be forced to make a deal.”

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