Obamacare Replacement On Hold?

Collins & Higgins On The Bill That Died

Mike Baggerman
July 18, 2017 - 3:00 am

WBEN Photo/Mike Baggerman

(WBEN) –  The implosion of the Senate Republican health care bill leaves a divided GOP with its flagship legislative priority in tatters, talking far more about the possibility of repealing Obamacare without having any replacement ready.    Now, Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell said, the Senate would vote on a measure the GOP-run Congress approved in 2015, only to be vetoed by Obama - a bill repealing much of Obama's statute, with a two-year delay designed to give lawmakers time to enact a replacement. 

But the prospects for approving a clean repeal bill followed by work on replacement legislation, even with Trump ready to sign it, seemed shaky.

"It may be a good omen for (President Trump) to one of the things he's threatened to do, and just repeal Obamacare, set to expire at a certain date and then use another year or so to  work out the details of ReplacementCare," says John Bartimole, a health care consultant and former president of the WNY Healthcare Association.

But he adds that some of this may also be theater, strategy and part of negotiations on behalf of a president who wrote "The Art of The Deal".

"This is not just a moving target, this is a target you sometimes can't even see. And who knows what machinations are going on behind the scenes at the White House, in Congress, with insurance companies, with the lobbying groups. I think it is going to be fascinating to watch"

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Trump and party leaders had started this year embracing that strategy, only to abandon it when it seemed incapable of passing Congress, with many Republicans worried it would cause insurance market and political chaos because of uncertainty that they would approve substitute legislation.

McConnell's failed bill would have left 22 million uninsured by 2026, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, a number that many Republicans found unpalatable. But the vetoed 2015 measure would be even worse, the budget office said last January, producing 32 million additional uninsured people by 2026 - figures that seemed likely to drive a stake into that bill's prospects for passing Congress.

That would seem to leave McConnell with an option he described last month - negotiating with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y. That would likely be on a narrower package aimed more at keeping insurers in difficult marketplaces they're either abandoning or imposing rapidly growing premiums.

"The core of this bill is unworkable," Schumer said in a statement. He said Republicans "should start from scratch and work with Democrats on a bill that lowers premiums, provides long-term stability to the markets and improves our health care system."

Similar to legislation the House approved in May after its own setbacks, McConnell's bill would repeal Obama's tax penalties on people who don't buy coverage and cut the Medicaid program for the poor, elderly and nursing home residents. It rolled back many of the statute's requirements for the policies insurers can sell and eliminated many tax increases that raised money for Obama's expansion to 20 million more people, though it retained the law's tax boosts on high earners.

All democrats in congress are opposed to the new health care bill, including New York Senators Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand. Congressman Brian Higgins voted no when the House of Representatives voted on the American Health Care Act.

“I don’t think they can pass it,” Higgins said Monday afternoon before the bill's entire collapse was official. “If they’re waiting for Senator McCain that’s kind of odd because he’s already expressed opposition to it. It appears they don’t have the votes anyhow, any they shouldn’t have the votes.”

 Clarence Republican Chris Collins was still holding out hope yesterday that maybe  the senate could still introduce new amendments to the health care bill to get other senators on board with the bill.

“They call that sausage making,” Collins said. “That’s how it works. It can be messy at times but I know Senator McConnell is absolutely focused on getting this (bill) back to the house so we can send it to the president.”

While saying he is still optimistic over the bill, Collins said this bill is especially important to Western New Yorkers because of the Collins-Faso amendment which will prevent the state from charging upstate New York counties for Medicaid through property taxes.

“It would be saving $204 million a year,” Collins said. “Over 90% of our county property tax.”

Congressman Higgins called the bill a “fraud” that was “perpetrated against the American people”.

“Some people have a genetic pre-disposition to some diseases,” Higgins said. “They’re born into them. We approved a provision under health care law to ensure private health care insurance companies couldn't’t deny somebody coverage because of a pre-existing condition. It’s against the law. They want to change that.”

 

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