On July 25, 2017, as Congress’ zillionth (or so it seemed) attempt to repeal and replace Obamacare was careening gently off a cliff into a bed of spikes, Sen. John McCain rose to the Senate floor and delivered a clarion call for bipartisanship.
“Let’s trust each other,” the maverick Republican legislator cried. “Let’s return to regular order. We’ve been spinning our wheels on too many important issues because we keep trying to find a way to win without help from across the aisle.”
It was a stirring speech. A vital speech. A speech that, coming directly on the heels of McCain’s vote to advance a bill that was being written by a group of Republicans in secret, seemed kind of like bullshit.
But now, not two months after the dust from the GOP’s last, best shot at the law finally settled, it actually might be … happening?
For the first time in seven years, Democrats and Republicans are trying to figure out how to patch up the Affordable Care Act. Together.
The result of the effort, if successful, would be the first major bipartisan change to the law since it was passed in 2010.
At least one Republican senator — Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander — is trying to make it happen by next week, according to the Washington Examiner.
OK, but just because it’s bipartisan doesn’t mean it’s a good idea. What are they actually trying to do?
Something very minor, but hey! Under the current law, the U.S. government pays health insurance companies to keep individual premiums down. President Trump has repeatedly threatened to stop these payments.
Alexander, Sen. Patty Murray, and others on the HELP Committee are trying to come up with a “stopgap” package that can continue the funding without having to rely on Trump, preventing premiums from spiking.
That sounds nice! But … they must disagree on some stuff?
They sure do!
Alexander wants to roll back some of the ACA’s essential health benefit requirements, which dictate what plans have to cover. Murray, meanwhile, hopes to properly fund reinsurance, in order to help insurers pay out claims to the sickest individuals.
They do, however, seem committed to reaching a deal.
Great, so everything’s good now!
Not exactly. The same John McCain who righteously urged bipartisanship just two months ago? He just announced his support for a new “repeal and replace” bill that would “block grant” Medicaid to the states, potentially amounting to huge cuts to the program.
The Arizona senator told The Hill that, despite his earlier words, crafting the bill without Democratic input “doesn’t mean I wouldn’t vote for it.” That doesn’t just put the current bipartisan effort in jeopardy, but it potentially provides another last-ditch avenue to gut the law completely.
Still, for the first time in what feels like forever, it seems Congress might take July John McCain’s advice and start working together again.
Working, that is, to try to make things better, not worse, for sick people.
Sound good to you? Give ’em a call and make sure they stick to it.
Fingers crossed, knock on wood, throw salt over your shoulder, punch a Komodo dragon they don’t get any ideas from September John McCain.
Update 9/6/2017: McCain later clarified his position on the Graham-Cassidy proposal through a spokesperson, noting that while he endorses the “concept,” he is waiting to see a bill before committing his support.