Graham, Cassidy healthcare offer shifts decisions to states

Graham, Cassidy healthcare offer shifts decisions to states
© Greg Nash

An amendment to the GOP's healthcare plan written by two Republican senators would shift the majority of federal funding and decisionmaking on ObamaCare directly to the states. 

The new plan released Thursday morning and written by Republican Sens. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamDurbin: I had 'nothing to do' with Curbelo snub Republicans jockey for position on immigration Overnight Health Care: House passes 20-week abortion ban | GOP gives ground over ObamaCare fix | Price exit sets off speculation over replacement MORE (S.C.) and Bill Cassidy (La.) would block grant about $500 billion of federal spending to the states over 10 years to either repeal, repair or keep their ObamaCare programs. 

The senators said Thursday that their amendment is being offered as a way to bridge the divide between Republicans as they struggle to reach 50 votes on their healthcare bill. They also hope the amendment could attract support from Democrats. 

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“It would leave in place taxes on the wealthy, taking that money and giving it back to governors to come up with better healthcare,” Graham said on CNN. 

“If you like ObamaCare, you can keep it. If you want to replace it, you can.”

The taxes on the wealthy were created under ObamaCare to pay for parts of the healthcare law, including subsidies for people to purchase insurance. 

The amendment would also repeal ObamaCare's individual and employer mandates, but keep insurer regulations protecting people with pre-existing conditions. 

It would essentially eliminate the ObamaCare subsidies, because the funding would be transitioned to the states. The states then could decide to create subsidies, tax credits or some other way to help people buy insurance. 

The $500 billion in block grants would be generated by keeping some ObamaCare taxes. It would be divided up among states using a formula adjusted for inflation and based on region, Graham said. 

It's unclear if the amendment will gain traction, but an aide with Graham said the hope is for it to be considered if the new draft Senate bill can’t get enough votes.

The senators released their amendment the same day that Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellGun proposal picks up GOP support Children’s health-care bill faces new obstacles Dems see Trump as potential ally on gun reform MORE (R-Ky.) will show GOP senators a new draft of the healthcare plan. 

The new draft is aimed at winning the 50 Republican votes needed to pass the bill out of the Senate — providing Vice President Pence breaks a tie — though it’s unclear if it will be successful.

The draft is also expected to keep some of ObamaCare's taxes on the wealthy, and will include $45 billion for states to address the opioid epidemic.

It does not include any changes to Medicaid that moderates have been pushing for. 

In a concession to conservatives, the draft is expected to include a version of an amendment proposed by Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzWhatever you think the Alabama special election means, you’re probably wrong This week: Congress gets ball rolling on tax reform Week ahead: Senators work toward deal to fix ObamaCare markets MORE (R-Texas) that would allow insurers to sell plans that are not compliant with ObamaCare, as long as they also offer plans that do meet ObamaCare requirements. 

The draft is also expected to add extra funding to compensate for higher costs for sick people to offset the costs that could arise under the Cruz amendment.