Five things to watch for in CNN’s ObamaCare repeal debate

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CNN will host a health care debate Monday night between Senators as the GOP makes a last-ditch effort to repeal ObamaCare.

The debate pits GOP Sens. Lindsey Graham (S.C.) and Bill Cassidy (La.) against Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) in a town hall-style event.

The debate will be moderated by CNN anchor Jake Tapper and chief political correspondent Dana Bash live from Washington, D.C.

Graham and Cassidy are the authors of the latest Republican ObamaCare repeal effort, which appears to be on life support given GOP defections from the right and center.

Sanders brings political star power to the debate, as well as some risk for Democrats. He is championing a single-payer bill that would revolutionize the nation’s health-care system, something Graham has lambasted as socialism. Republicans are expected to try to attack the Sanders proposal during the debate.

Here are five things to watch for.

Will Republicans turn Monday into a debate on single-payer?

If ObamaCare is not repealed, Graham says the U.S. will head toward a single-payer system.

“It’s coming down to a choice between Federalism vs. Socialism,” Graham tweeted Monday morning. “I chose federalism.”

Graham will likely put a big focus on Sanders’s “Medicare for all” bill, which he recently introduced with the support of 16 of his Democratic colleagues — though not Klobuchar.

Sanders is more likely to defend the Affordable Care Act than seek to tout his own bill.

“The focus is going to be on exposing Graham-Cassidy as the most destructive piece of legislation in the modern history of our country,” a Sanders aide told The Hill.

He will be “defending the ACA, as he has for the last nine months.”

Debating pre-existing conditions and Jimmy Kimmel

Sanders and Klobuchar are expected to zero in on Democratic arguments that the GOP bill would hurt people with pre-existing conditions.

While the bill would leave intact an ObamaCare rule banning insurers from denying coverage to people based on their medical history, Graham-Cassidy lets states waive requirements barring insurers from charging higher premiums to people with pre-existing conditions.

States may also waive out of essential health benefit requirements, which mandate what services insurers must cover.

The bill does require states to show how they will maintain access to “adequate and affordable health insurance coverage for people with pre-existing conditions,” but what that means is open for interpretation by the administration.

“Insurers might have to sell coverage to people with preexisting conditions, but it could be very expensive,” Tim Jost, a emeritus professor at the Washington and Lee University School of Law who opposes the bill, wrote in a blog Monday morning.

Democrats have an ally in the late-night comedian Jimmy Kimmel, who has advocated against several GOP repeal bills, including Graham-Cassidy.

Kimmel, whose son was born with a serious heart condition, last week accused Cassidy of lying to his face over the bill’s treatment of people with pre-existing conditions.

Cassidy had said the bill meets what he had called the “Jimmy Kimmel test” that all children would be ensured coverage. But Kimmel argues the provisions allowing waivers to states could put coverage out of the price-range of millions of Americans.

Which side will be more divided?

Graham and Cassidy are generally united on health-care policy as the authors of the latest repeal plan. But some Republicans have issues with it.

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) argued the proposal doesn’t go far enough in repealing ObamaCare and has said he won’t vote for it unless certain demands are met.

Among other things, he wants to substantially reduce the amount of funding states would be given through block grants. A number of states are already slated to lose funding under the bill, and cutting funding even more would further alienate moderates.

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) announced his opposition to the bill Friday, saying Congress should return to “regular order” for health care changes.

Moderates like Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), who voted against the last repeal bill, haven’t come out against the bill, but have said they have concerns about its impact on their states.

A number of Republican governors have also opposed the bill, citing concerns about how it will impact their states.

On the other side, Sanders and Klobuchar support ObamaCare, but aren’t united on single payer. Klobuchar wasn’t one of the 16 Senate Democrats to co-sponsor Sanders’s “Medicare for all” bill last month.

How will Democrats defend ObamaCare?

Democrats have defended ObamaCare amid efforts from Republicans to dismantle it, but they’ve also acknowledged it needs improvements.

Klobuchar and Sanders will have to have good answers about the double-digit premium increases forecast for 2018.

They’re likely to point to what Democrats have described as “sabotage” from the Trump administration. Insurers across the country have hiked premiums for 2018 amid uncertainty over whether key ObamaCare payments called cost-sharing reductions will be paid.

Democrats also are likely to note that bipartisan efforts to lower premiums and stabilize ObamaCare’s insurance markets for next year were put on hold after the Graham-Cassidy proposal began to gather support in the Senate.

But the increasing costs of premiums has been a criticism of ObamaCare before President Trump was elected. Democrats might have to answer questions about what they would do to improve ObamaCare, while still trying to defend the law.

How will the moderators handle it?

ObamaCare is a testy issue that Democrats and Republicans have been unable to find compromise on in its seven years of being law.

It will be interesting to see what questions Bash and Tapper ask and if they’ll interject to correct the record.

Audience members will also be able to ask questions.

CNN said it selected audience members with varying political affiliations with a focus on those who would be impacted by the proposed repeal plan.

Tags Amy Klobuchar Bernie Sanders Bill Cassidy John McCain Lindsey Graham Lisa Murkowski Rand Paul Susan Collins

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