Quick Take: New Graham-Cassidy Health Bill is Partisan, Not Public Health

Capitol building from low angle

“The Graham-Cassidy bill completely abandons Republicans’ longstanding promise to replace Obamacare.  It is repeal only, and would leave tens of millions of Americans with no health insurance and no hope of getting it.  All of the key elements of Obamacare that have extended coverage to 20 million more people would be eliminated, including the requirement that insurance companies cover those with preexisting conditions and the expansion of Medicaid.” – Robert Field, PhD, JD, professor in the Dornsife School of Public Health and Kline School of Law

 Capitol building from low angle

Introduced this month, a new GOP attempt at re-writing health care laws seeks to roll back protections and requirements called for in the Affordable Care Act in favor of shifting health insurance funding to the state level.

Named for its original sponsors, senators Lindsay Graham (R-S.C.) and Bill Cassidy (R-La.), the bill would have to be passed by the senate before Sept. 30. After that, rules dictate that a simple majority (50 votes plus a vice presidential tiebreaker) won’t be enough to pass it and 60 will be needed.

“Donald Trump called the health care bill that passed the House last spring ‘mean,’” said Field, who is an expert on the United States health system. “If the president were to stick with that assessment of the House bill, he would have to call Graham-Cassidy ‘barbaric.’”

Field takes issue with the shift to state block grants as opposed to full federal funding. Their appeal, politically, is that they give states more say — and power — over funding than the federal government.

“These block grants are only authorized for 10 years and come with no guarantee that the money would actually be used to expand access to health care for those most in need,” Field said. “Block grants give money to the states with few or no strings attached.”

What is especially alarming to Field is the proposed formula for calculating who gets what in the block grants.

“It would redistribute funds from states that have done the most to expand coverage under Obamacare to those that have done the least,” Field said. “The bill would essentially take money from blue states and give it to red states. Could a piece of legislation be more transparently partisan than that?”

In the spring, after round one of the GOP health reform bills fell flat, Field discussed what a more bipartisan health bill might look like. There, he said that “Democrats and moderate Republicans want to keep Medicaid expansion in essentially its current form.” Keeping subsidies for those in need is also another point of agreement.

But all of this comes from the view of many on the GOP side of the aisle that the Affordable Care Act, Obamacare, is failing.

“It’s not failing at all,” Field said. “I think that Obamacare has been a tremendous success. How can extending health coverage to more than 20 million people be considered failure?”

Acknowledging that there have been implementation issues that could be taken as “signs of failure,” Field said that is to be expected with any large-scale program in the government, up to and including the military.

“There may be better ways of extending coverage, but the Obamacare approach is certainly working,” Field said.

Media interested in speaking with Field should contact Frank Otto at 215.571.4244 or fmo26@drexel.edu.