South Carolina U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham was among a group of four Republican senators who introduced a longshot attempt to roll back the Affordable Care Act on Wednesday.
Graham partnered with U.S. Sens. Bill Cassidy, R-LA; Dean Heller, R-NV; and Ron Johnson, R-WI, on a plan that would convert Medicaid spending into block grants for states rather than the current reimbursement method. It would also reduce federal funding used to expand Medicaid eligibility under the 2010 Affordable Care Act, which Republicans call “Obamacare.”
He presented it as a final chance to replace the law after previous GOP efforts to completely repeal “Obamacare” or substitute it failed earlier this summer.
“If you believe repealing and replacing Obamacare is a good idea, this is your best and only chance to make it happen,” he said during a Wednesday press conference unveiling the proposal. “Because everything else has failed except this approach.”
The proposal also would eliminate Obamacare’s individual mandate, which requires all adults over 25 purchase health insurance or else pay a tax penalty.
It faces long odds. Republicans have 17 days to get it through the Senate to beat a fast-track deadline and avoid a Democratic filibuster. With only 52 current GOP senators, Graham also has little margin to prevent defectors from killing the bill on the Senate floor.
The bill’s opponents said the current law is the the only way to ensure those with pre-existing conditions are able to get insurance without paying excessive premiums. “There is no way for states to operate the ACA without its tax credits and its mechanism to ensure that people with pre-existing conditions can access affordable care,” National Health Law Program Executive Director Elizabeth G. Taylor said. “This is another effort to repeal the ACA and radically gut Medicaid.”
President Donald Trump offered his tacit endorsement Wednesday, but indicated its supporters would have to gather the votes without his help. “I sincerely hope that Senators Graham and Cassidy have found a way to address the Obamacare crisis,” the White House quoted Trump in a statement.