The Republican Party’s efforts to gut former President Barack Obama’s legacy health care law came to an abrupt—if temporary—halt Monday night.
Just hours after the Senate was gaveled back into session, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell was handed two more public defections on his health care bill to overhaul Obamacare. The dramatic and simultaneous announcement from Sens. Jerry Moran of Kansas and Mike Lee of Utah means McConnell officially does not have the votes to even begin debate on his legislation to overhaul the Affordable Care Act [MJ Lee et al., “Latest Health Care Bill Collapses Following Moran, Lee Defections,” CNN, 2017.07.18].
Senator Moran nor Senator Lee blindsided the President, who was having steak with veteran lawmakers last night to discuss TrumpCare. Senator Moran issued this statement explaining that he opposes the current bill because it came from a “closed-door process” and “fails to repeal the Affordable Care Act or adress healthcare’s rising costs. Senator Moran calls for starting fresh “with an open legislative process to develop innovative solutions that provide greater personal choice, protections for pre-existing conditions, increased access and lower overall costs for Kansans.” That’s a pretty good list of everything the Republican plans (including the one our Rep. Kristi Noem voted for) do not do.
Senator Lee complains that the current bill does not go far enough: “In addition to not repealing all of the Obamacare taxes, it doesn’t go far enough in lowering premiums for middle class families; nor does it create enough free space from the most costly Obamacare regulations.”
Moran from Kansas and Lee from Utah avoid mentioning the impact that the proposed cuts to Medicaid would have on their states. Rapid City blogger John Tsitrian nicely fills that gap:
Those of us who understand how tough this bill would have been for rural states like South Dakota, which stood to lose billions of dollars in Medicaid if the bill became law, can breathe a bit easier–at least for the time being. The bill’s reduction in Medicaid funding to South Dakota–which I calculate to be about $100 million a year over the course of the next few years–would leave a substantial hole in our state’s budget. This is an issue that has had rural medical providers seriously concerned and seems to be what prompted three of the aforementioned naysayers to turn thumbs down on it. Maggie Elewhaney, speaking for the National Rural Health Association, says the bill would “exacerbate the rural hospital closure crisis.” The Kaiser Family Foundation notes that Medicaid is an essential component of rural healthcare, where the proportion of Medicaid recipients is higher than in urban areas. According to Kaiser, rural areas actually had net gains in coverage under the ACA. Those gains, and then some, would be given up by the GOP bill [John Tsitrian, “Hey! What About Us Country Folk?” The Constant Commoner, 2017.07.18].
In a telephone town hall last night dominated by questions about health care, Senator Mike Rounds maintained that his party won’t cut Medicaid. Senator Rounds appears to be suffering from the same delusion as Vice-President Mike Pence, HHS Secretary Tom Price, and CMS chief Seema Verma, who think they can say the Medicaid cuts they support aren’t cuts and get away with it.
But hey! Thanks in part to the distracted fecklessness of the current President, the Affordable Care Act keeps on trucking.