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 GrahamBare bones repeal plan gains steam in Senate Live coverage: Senate debates repealing ObamaCare Graham: Trump 'absolutely' showing weakness on Sessions 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 McConnellMitch McConnellDems don’t want to help GOP improve repeal bill Bipartisan group of governors call on GOP to reject skinny repeal Dems get CBO scores on what they think skinny bill will look like 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 CruzTed CruzBare bones repeal plan gains steam in Senate Dem lawmaker: Trump should fire Sessions GOP Senate candidate: concerns about Trump are 'coming to fruition' 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.