Weighing Options on Obamacare

Congress reportedly has until September 30th to use the fiscal year 2017 budget reconciliation tool to repeal and replace Obamacare without Democrat support. With this looming deadline, Congressional Republicans are scrambling to form a healthcare bill that will get 50 senators to “yes”.

Last week, Senators Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Bill Cassidy (R-La.) unveiled a 140-page bill to modify Obamacare. For the bill to receive sufficient floor consideration prior to the September 30th deadline, two things would probably have to happen first: 1) The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has to complete and release its cost estimate of the bill; and 2) the bill must go through the so-called “Byrd bath” (an evaluation by the Senate parliamentarian to remove extraneous provisions and comply with Senate budget rules).

The Heritage Foundation said a previous version of Graham-Cassidy incorporated a number of important provisions but ultimately “falls short of fully repealing Obamacare and replacing” the law, in part because “it doesn’t repeal all of Obamacare’s taxes” and “takes policy in the wrong direction by spending the money from the Obamacare taxes on a new welfare block-grant program to states.”

Heritage Action released the following statement from chief executive officer Michael A. Needham last week:

“Heritage Action looks forward to reviewing the newly released text and appreciates the senators’ efforts to keep the debate over Obamacare’s future front and center. Based on what we know right now, Graham-Cassidy would make some improvements over the status quo but it would not actually deliver on the Republicans’ seven-year campaign promise to repeal and replace Obamacare.

“As we have said from the beginning, the key question is whether any proposal actually addresses Obamacare’s regulatory architecture. Any reforms that maintain the law’s onerous federal regulations will ensure networks continue to narrow, premiums continue to rise, and choice continues to decline.”

While the long term implications of passing Graham-Cassidy on the overall fight for conservative healthcare solutions remains unclear, one thing is 100% clear in the short term: the bill does not and would not repeal Obamacare. The Graham-Cassidy proposal, however, is likely better than simply maintaining the status quo. It would establish a waiver system that would increase state flexibility and alleviate some federal regulations imposed by Obamacare. Heritage Action will continue to fight for meaningful, conservative reforms to healthcare that address the failures of Obamacare. In the meantime, conservatives should continue to oppose any efforts to simply bailout Obamacare without any meaningful reforms.

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