WASHINGTON — The potential for Senate Republicans to unravel Obamacare this week diminished on Sunday, when two GOP senators, Susan Collins of Maine and Ted Cruz of Texas said their support was unlikely.
Even though the bill drafted by Sens. Lindsey Graham R-S.C. and Bill Cassidy R-La., is on the verge of failure — and may not even get a vote by the end of the month — as long as Republicans control the House, Senate and the White House, attempts may continue to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, former President Barack Obama’s signature health insurance plan.
AMONG THE REASONS THIS MATTERS TO YOU: If Graham and Cassidy’s measure became law, the state of Illinois, already struggling with dysfunction and fiscal distress, would get the power to determine your coverage for pre-existing conditions and related cost caps and your essential health benefits package.
Moreover, Illinois would have to devise a plan for creating a stable insurance market without sticking you with skyrocketing premiums.
At this point in time, do you want your health insurance coverage overhaul in the hands of GOP Gov. Bruce Rauner and Democratic Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan?
Another big issue: The entire structure of Medicaid in Illinois would be transformed under Graham/Cassidy. A lot of people in Illinois could well face the loss of health benefits.
So don’t think of this as just repealing Obamacare. And yes, Obamacare has many flaws, especially if you’ve been hit with a higher deductible, a premium hike or fewer insurance purchase options. These problems are potentially fixable if Democrats and Republicans in Congress work together.
Under Graham/Cassidy, Illinois would have more control over Medicaid because the money will be sent from Washington to Springfield in a block grant. But over time Washington will send hundreds of millions of dollars less to Illinois.
If you think this federal/state program is only for poor people, consider this: More than half of the residents in Illinois nursing homes have their care paid for by Medicaid.
You may be one of those poor people one day if you end up in a nursing home or needing long-term care.
Nationally, Medicaid covers 60 percent of nursing home patients, according to the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation.
Today, you may have the income, savings and investments to count yourself in the middle class. After a few years of paying for a nursing home, you may run through your money – and after a lifetime of working and thrift you may end up a low-income senior in desperate need of the Medicaid safety net to pay your long-term care expenses.
“Illinois cannot absorb additional financial burdens that would be imposed on the state and would be forced to reduce eligibility, covered services and payments to providers,” the Illinois Health and Hospital Association said in statement. “The magnitude of these cuts and changes to Medicaid is staggering.”
The group represents about 200 hospitals and about 50 health care systems in Illinois.
WHAT HAPPENED ON SUNDAY: Under Senate rules, Republicans only have until Sept. 30 to pass Graham/Cassidy with 51 votes. After that it will take 60 votes. The Senate has 52 Republicans and 48 Democrats. GOP Vice President Michael Pence gets to vote if there is a tie. No Democrat will support this legislation. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., said they are no votes.
Graham/Cassidy will be shut down with just one more no vote. Collins all but put herself in the no column on Sunday.
Collins said on CNN’s “State of the Union” “it’s very difficult for me to envision a scenario” where “I would end up voting for this bill.”
Cruz said at the Texas Tribune Festival in Austin, “right now, they don’t have my vote.”
Graham, on ABC’s “This Week with George Stephanopoulos” said, “We’re moving forward. And we’ll see what happens next week.”
WHERE DOES RAUNER STAND? “I have expressed my concerns to members of Congress and members of the administration” about the “very significant negative impacts it can have upon the people in Illinois,” Rauner said at a press conference last week.
Rauner, by refusing to engage, delivers fodder to Democrats out to defeat his re-election bid. Rauner’s political calculation is this: Why say more if Graham/Cassidy is doomed in the Senate?