Collins a 'no' on Graham-Cassidy health care bill

Sen. Susan Collins says no to Graham-Cassidy

WASHINGTON (NEWS CENTER) — Sen. Susan Collins said Monday she opposes both versions of the health care bill sponsored by Sens. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and Bill Cassidy, R-La.

The announcement came shortly after the release of a partial score from the Congressional Budget Office, which calculated the GOP's latest proposal to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act (ACA) would reduce insurance coverage for "millions."

"The CBO's analysis on the earlier version of the bill, incomplete though it is due to time constraints, confirms the bill will have a substantially negative impact on the number of people covered by insurance," Sen. Collins said in a written statement.

Collins listed three major concerns she had with the Graham-Cassidy proposal:

- Changes and cuts to the Medicaid program;
- Opening the door to weakening protections for people with pre-existing conditions;
- Consensus among physicians, patient advocates, hospitals, etc., it would lead to higher premiums and reduced coverage

A new version of the bill was released late Sunday night, which reportedly increases Medicaid funding for Maine and Alaska, presumably to attract the votes of Collins and Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowsky. But Collins' statement said even with that 4.3 percent increase, the plan would still reduce overall funding for Maine.

"The fact is, Maine still loses money under whichever version of the Graham-Cassidy bill we consider," Collins said, "because the bills use what could be described as a 'give with one hand, take with the other' distribution model.'"

Collins said cuts to Medicaid in the future "more than offset" any short-term influx of money, and directly addressed the last-ditch attempt to persuade her vote.

"…if senators can adjust a funding formula over a weekend to help a single state, they could just as easily adjust that formula in the future to hurt that state," Collins said. "This is simply not the way that we should be approaching an important and complex issue that must be handled thoughtfully and fairly for all Americans."

Collins said in her statement that the ACA needs fixing and "has many flaws that need to be addressed." She said she intends to continue on those issues.

Read the senator's full statement below:

Washington, D.C. - U.S. Senator Susan Collins announced today that she opposes both versions of the health care bill sponsored by Senators Lindsey Graham and Bill Cassidy. The Senator’s statement follows:

“Health care is a deeply personal, complex issue that affects every single one of us and one-sixth of the American economy. Sweeping reforms to our health care system and to Medicaid can’t be done well in a compressed time frame, especially when the actual bill is a moving target. Today, we find out that there is now a fourth version of the Graham-Cassidy proposal, which is as deeply flawed as the previous iterations. The fact that a new version of this bill was released the very week we are supposed to vote compounds the problem.

“I have three major concerns with both the proposal that we were discussing last week and the newest version that was put together this weekend:

“First, both proposals make sweeping changes and cuts in the Medicaid program. Expert projections show that more than $1 trillion would be taken out of the Medicaid program between the years 2020 and 2036. This would have a devastating impact to a program that has been on the books for 50 years and provides health care to our most vulnerable citizens, including disabled children and low-income seniors.

“Second, both bills open the door for states to weaken protections for people with pre-existing conditions, such as asthma, cancer, heart disease, arthritis, and diabetes. Some states could allow higher premiums for individuals with pre-existing conditions, potentially making their insurance unaffordable. States could also limit specific categories of benefits for Affordable Care Act policies, such as eliminating coverage for mental health or substance abuse treatment.

“Third, physicians, patient advocates, insurers, and hospitals agree that both versions of this legislation would lead to higher premiums and reduced coverage for tens of millions of Americans.

“The CBO’s analysis on the earlier version of the bill, incomplete though it is due to time constraints, confirms that this bill will have a substantially negative impact on the number of people covered by insurance.

“There has been some discussion that the new version of the bill includes additional money for my home state of Maine. The fact is, Maine still loses money under whichever version of the Graham-Cassidy bill we consider because the bills use what could be described as a “give with one hand, take with the other” distribution model. Huge Medicaid cuts down the road more than offset any short-term influx of money. But even more important, if Senators can adjust a funding formula over a weekend to help a single state, they could just as easily adjust that formula in the future to hurt that state. This is simply not the way that we should be approaching an important and complex issue that must be handled thoughtfully and fairly for all Americans.

“The Affordable Care Act has many flaws that need to be addressed. The current state of health insurance, where premiums are skyrocketing, choices are limited, and small businesses are struggling, needs fixing. My focus will remain on remedying these problems.”

© 2017 WCSH-TV


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