Sanders, Klobuchar debate Graham, Cassidy on ObamaCare, repeal and single-payer

Sanders, Klobuchar debate Graham, Cassidy on ObamaCare, repeal and single-payer
© Greg Nash

GOP Sens. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin Graham GOP senator: Kavanaugh accuser 'moving the goalposts' Collins: Kavanaugh accuser should 'reconsider,' testify on Monday Grassley willing to send staff to California to speak with Kavanaugh accuser MORE (S.C.) and Bill CassidyWilliam (Bill) Morgan CassidyOvernight Health Care: Senators target surprise medical bills | Group looks to allow Medicaid funds for substance abuse programs | FDA launches anti-vaping campaign for teens Bipartisan senators unveil proposal to crack down on surprise medical bills Outdated global postal system hurts US manufacturers MORE (La.) will debate Sens. Bernie SandersBernard (Bernie) SandersThe Memo: Tide turns on Kavanaugh Election Countdown: Trump confident about midterms in Hill.TV interview | Kavanaugh controversy tests candidates | Sanders, Warren ponder if both can run | Super PACs spending big | Two states open general election voting Friday | Latest Senate polls READ: President Trump’s exclusive interview with Hill.TV MORE (I-Vt.) and Amy KlobucharAmy Jean KlobucharElection Countdown: Trump confident about midterms in Hill.TV interview | Kavanaugh controversy tests candidates | Sanders, Warren ponder if both can run | Super PACs spending big | Two states open general election voting Friday | Latest Senate polls GOP in striking distance to retake Franken seat Warner: 'overwhelming majority' of Republicans would back social media regulations MORE (D-Minn.) in a town hall-style event broadcast live Monday night on CNN. 

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 and Klobuchar oppose the bill, which could see a vote on the Senate floor later this week. 

The Hill's healthcare reporters will be providing live updates on the debate.

A debate on ObamaCare, single-payer and repeal

11:02 p.m.

That's a wrap.
A debate sapped of some of its meaning and energy by the news that Sen. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsCollins: My office has gotten 'pretty ugly voicemails, threats' over Kavanaugh The Memo: Tide turns on Kavanaugh Budowsky: Kavanaugh and the rights of women MORE (R-Maine) is definitively against the GOP's last-ditch ObamaCare repeal bill ended with no resolutions or declared winners.
But it was hard not to notice that the Republicans defending their proposal were doing so knowing a vote this week will be unsuccessful.
Throughout the debate, Cassidy and Graham pitched their ObamaCare repeal bill as the best effort to return power to the states.  They argued ObamaCare is failing, and at one point, Graham said the system can't be saved and "we need to find a better way."
Sanders and Klobuchar ran through a series of familiar arguments against the GOP bill, including that it would risk protections for those with preexisting conditions. 
Sanders also defended his single-payer proposal, even as Graham and Cassidy warned of creeping socialism.
Sanders advocated for short-term proposals to build and improve upon the Affordable Care Act, while also pitching his plan as the long-term solution. 

"Longer term we have go to come together and conclude we can’t be the only major nation on earth not to see health care as a right," Sanders said. 

It's unclear exactly what happens next.
Republicans are set to meet as a caucus on Tuesday, where they will likely decide on whether to hold a vote on the Graham-Cassidy bill. 

'Health care as a right.'

10:30 p.m.

In his closing remarks, Sanders said Congress needs to craft short term fixes to ObamaCare to deal with issues like rising premiums and high drug prices. 

"Our job in the short term is to defeat this proposal," Sanders said of the Cassidy-Graham bill.

"Longer term we have go to come together and conclude we can’t be the only major nation on earth not to see health care as a right."

Graham pressed on effects on opioid addiction

10:26 p.m.

A woman who was formerly addicted to heroin and said her husband died from an overdose pressed Graham on cuts to Medicaid.

Medicaid pays for care for many people with opioid addiction. The repeal bill would end the Medicaid expansion in ObamaCare, though it would transfer some of those funds to block grants to states.

Graham argued that the deficit needs to be controlled and “Medicaid is unsustainable.”

Sanders countered that the GOP tax reform bill is set to add to the deficit through tax cuts, arguing that Republicans are not serious about the deficit. 

"The reason they aren't waiting" for CBO
10:11 p.m.
The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office released a preliminary analysis of the Cassidy-Graham bill Monday evening, but wouldn't have time do a more complete estimate with coverage numbers by Sept. 30.
Klobuchar said "the reason they aren't waiting to get that thorough analysis is because they know exactly what it will show."
And, she said, that is millions more uninsured Americans. 

Sanders calls for statewide public option

10:10 p.m.

Sanders said there should be a government-funded health insurance option in every state.

Sanders has long called for universal health coverage.

"Why don’t we make sure that in every state there’s a public option to compete with private insurance," Sanders said. "People should have the option to go beyond the private insurance company in their own community."


Klobuchar denounces 'false choice' on repeal and single payer

10:09 p.m.

Klobuchar said it is a “false choice” between the Graham-Cassidy bill and “one other bill,” an apparent reference to Sanders’s single payer bill.

Klobuchar is seeking to broaden the debate beyond the GOP frame of contrasting repeal versus single payer.

She pitched narrower, more potentially bipartisan ideas that the Senate health committee has worked on.

Those include “reinsurance,” the idea that government funds would help bring premiums down by paying the cost of particularly sick and expensive enrollees. 

Sanders defends McCain against Trump

9:55 p.m.

“It is beyond my imagination… how someone like Donald Trump can attack an American hero,” Sanders said, in response to Trump’s Monday night tweet against McCain.

“Everyone knows he’s a man of incredible integrity and a man of incredible courage. I just don’t understand why you have this president who thinks he can attack people right and left.”

Graham defends McCain from Trump attacks

9:50 p.m.

In response to a tweeted attack on Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainTrump administration weakens methane pollution standards for drilling on public lands Another recession could hit US in 2019, says credit union association chief R-E-S-P-E-C-T: One legacy of Franklin and McCain is up to us MORE (R-Ariz.) from President TrumpDonald John TrumpLondon terror suspect’s children told authorities he complained about Trump: inquiry The Memo: Tide turns on Kavanaugh Trump to nominate retiring lawmaker as head of trade agency MORE, Graham said McCain has earned the right to "do whatever the damn hell he wants to."

Trump tweeted video clips of McCain promising to repeal and replace ObamaCare.

Trump tweeted: "My oh my has he changed-complete turn from years of talk!"

McCain last week publicly opposed the Graham-Cassidy legislation, saying he wants a bipartisan bill to go through the normal committee process. That's the same reason he helped defeat the ObamaCare repeal bill over the summer. 

"To any American who has a problem with John McCain’s vote, all I can tell you is John McCain was willing to die for this country, and he can vote any way he wants to, and it doesn't matter to me," Graham said.

Sanders defends ACA, “Medicare for all” proposal

9:43 p.m.

Graham blasted ObamaCare, saying the system can’t be saved and “we need to find a better way.”

Sanders responded: “You ask the American people about whether or not they like ObamaCare compared to your plan and overwhelmingly the American people like the Affordable Care Act.”

He continued that it was easy to slam government-run programs but said the most popular health insurance program is Medicare, followed by the VA.  


Sanders presses Graham, Cassidy on drug prices

9:40 p.m. 

Sanders, a supporter of prescription drug importation and allowing Medicare to negotiate prices with drug companies, tried to get Cassidy and Graham on board. 

"Are you going to come aboard that legislation?" Sanders asked. 
"What we want to do is lower the outrageously high prices in this country." 
Cassidy replied: "Reimportation does not work. Canada has ten percent the population of the U.S. ... It wouldn't be enough for us all."
Graham on the other hand said negotiating Medicare drug prices with drug companies "might actually be a good idea." 
"The idea of [importing] drugs into the country from other countries... Let me think about that," he said, noting that his friend Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) supports the proposal.

Sanders defends ObamaCare

9:35 p.m.

In response to attacks from Graham, Sanders noted that ObamaCare needs work, "but let's not forget that 20 million Americans today have health insurance who previously did not."

Sanders said governors wouldn't necessarily protect people with pre-existing conditions, contrary to what Cassidy and Graham have been saying.

"The truth of the matter is the Affordable Care Act has done some very important things," Sanders said. "What the American people want is for us to build on and improve the Affordable Care Act, not repeal it. "

Cassidy defends his bill on pre-existing conditions

9:32 p.m.

Cassidy defended his bill’s protections for people with pre-existing conditions, which late night host Jimmy Kimmel has been criticizing him on.

“We think we have those standards in our bill,” Cassidy said of the protections.

Experts say the latest repeal bill has convoluted language on the subject of pre-existing conditions, but appears to allow insurers to charge people more based on their health status.

Cassidy argued if a state wanted to change the protections, it would have to show how there would still be “adequate and affordable” coverage.

“Adequate and affordable means something,” Cassidy said.

Graham and Bernie agree — on one thing

9:24 p.m.

In pitching his bill, Graham said “the biggest winner under ObamaCare is insurance companies and not patients, and I intend to change that.”

Sanders responded, saying the system is designed to make billions of dollars for insurance companies, and that the money should be going to doctors and nurses and not the insurance or drug industries.

But they weren’t on the same page for long, with Graham quickly calling Sanders’s single-payer plan “Medicare for nobody.”

Klobuchar takes on drug companies

9:23 p.m.

Klobuchar called on President Trump to work with Democrats on bipartisan bills to lower drug prices, like legislation to allow Medicare to negotiate drug prices.

"Yes, President Trump should work with us, but more than that he should lead the way in taking on the pharmaceutical companies to show them they don’t own Washington D.C.," Klobuchar said.



Sanders: Single payer not 'extreme'

9:20 p.m.

Sanders pushed for his single payer Medicare for All idea, saying it is not a “radical” idea.

“I don’t think Medicare for All is an extreme idea,” Sanders said.

He noted that the U.S. pays far more for health care than other developed countries.

He acknowledged it would not happen with Republicans in control. In the short term he called for lawmakers to “take on the pharmaceutical industry.”


Graham pushes for a health care vote

9:10 p.m.

While the bill appears to have enough ‘no’ votes from Republicans to fail, Graham is still pushing for a vote.

“We’re going to press on,” Graham said, asked about the latest defection from Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine).

“It’s OK to vote. It’s OK if you fall short if you do it for an idea you believe in.”


Cassidy brings up British infant Charlie Gard
9:10 p.m. 
In Cassidy's opening statement, he drew a distinction between government-run health care and a plan that empowers patients.
“This is a debate about who has the power, you or the federal government?” Cassidy said. In an extreme case, he said, the government will make a decision against the wishes of parents, like what happened to Charlie Gard in England.
Gard was a terminally ill infant who died this summer when the government ruled his life support could be removed.
"I will tell you if it’s a decision about you versus the federal government, we side with you," Cassidy said. "Those who oppose us and those who want single payer, they choose otherwise."


Sanders points to industry opposition

9:05 p.m.

In his opening remarks, Sanders said "every major health care association" has come out in opposition to the bill. Groups like the American Hospital Association and the American Medical Association have criticized the bill in recent days. 
"Our job now is to defeat this disastrous proposal," Sanders said.
In the long-term, he said health care should be a right to all people, a nod to his recently introduced "Medicare for all" plan.