Senate Republicans have until September 30 to advance legislation to repeal Obamacare under the “budget reconciliation” rules, which allows the GOP to pass a bill with 51 votes in the Senate rather than the normally-required 60 votes. The current method for repealing Obamacare is through legislation called “Graham-Cassidy,” in reference to its sponsors, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-LA). It’s not clear whether or not the bill has enough support to make it through a floor vote sometime next week — nor is it clear that Republicans even really understand what the bill does other than allow them to tell right-wing constituents that they repealed Obamacare.
What we do know about Graham-Cassidy is that it would eliminate protections for pre-existing conditions, one of the most popular features of the Affordable Care Act (ACA).
As the Washington Post explains, Vice President Mike Pence made it clear in an interview on “Fox and Friends” that Graham-Cassidy will not guarantee protections for Americans with pre-existing conditions:
What the bill says it would do on paper for people with preexisting conditions and what it would do in practice for people with preexisting conditions are very different. [Pols emphasis]
Technically, this bill says health insurers can’t refuse sick people insurance like they could pre-Obamacare. If states ask the federal government to let insurers stop charging sick and healthy people the same amount, they have to explain how they’ll provide affordable coverage to sick people. But the bill doesn’t require states to follow through on it. It says if states request a waiver, the government has to grant it.
That would allow insurers to jack up the prices on sick people, something health-care analysts say insurers almost certainly will do given the chance, since covering sick people isn’t cheap…
…Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.), author of the bill, focused on the regulation that, technically, insurers must provide people with preexisting conditions coverage. “More people will have coverage and we protect those with preexisting conditions,” he said Wednesday on CNN.
But if you ask that question a slightly different way to the bill’s supporters — can you guarantee people with preexisting conditions will get coverage — you get a totally different answer.
Senate Republicans continue to trot out the line that Graham-Cassidy will be great because it will give states more flexibility in deciding how to deal with healthcare coverage. That’s not entirely untrue, but it is an overly-broad message that skips right on on past reality.
As Vox.com explains, under Graham-Cassidy, the individual market would become more expensive for the sick:
Graham-Cassidy would allow states to waive out of two key Obamacare policies that protect sick Americans: a ban on underwriting and requirement to cover all essential health benefits.
The Affordable Care Act outlaws a practice called underwriting, where insurance plans tether their premiums to the expected health costs of a specific patient. Health plans would charge low premiums to healthy, young individuals but higher ones to those who are sicker or older.
This all brings us back to Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner, who said previously — in no uncertain terms — that pre-existing conditions must be protected in any new healthcare legislation. Graham-Cassidy WILL NOT protect pre-existing conditions.
Sen. Gardner has a choice here. He can keep his word and refuse to support Graham-Cassidy, or…not.