Senators Bill Cassidy of Louisiana and Susan Collins of Maine unveiled what they described as an “Obamacare Replacement Plan” on Tuesday, establishing a framework for new legislation intended to do away with the previous president’s healthcare plan, the Affordable Care Act.
The new plan, however, doesn’t require the complete dismantling of Obama’s controversial healthcare legislation, but instead offers individual states an increased say in their own healthcare policy – to include keeping Obamacare if they so choose.
“Republicans think that if you like your insurance, you should keep it. And we mean it,” Cassidy said. “They could opt to stay in Obamacare or they could opt for no federal help. So, California and New York, you love Obamcare? You can keep it.”
While the plan has not yet garnered support from party leadership, it is indicative of the GOPs growing concerns about having a viable replacement for Obamacare in place before bringing down the executioner’s ax on a program many Americans are currently insured through. It also speaks directly to growing criticisms levied toward the GOP for fighting so feverishly to repeal the law without having the foresight to establish a plan for a viable replacement.
An estimated twenty million people are currently insured through the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, and Collins, a moderate Republican, has voiced her concerns to her party in the past. She has called on fellow conservatives to wait on voting to repeal the program until a replacement plan exists and cited concerns about “needless and avoidable gaps in coverage” that could result for Americans if lawmakers are too quick to pull the trigger.
“We recognize that our bill is not perfect. It is still a work in progress. I expect that we will get many ideas from my colleagues for further refinements and we are completely open to that,” Collins said.
“But if we do not start putting specific legislation on the table that can be debated, refined, amended and enacted, then we will fail the American people.”
The Cassidy-Collins bill, titled “The Patient Freedom Act,” would leave Obamacare in place currently and give states until 2019 to vote on their choice of plan moving forward; either to retain the federally funded program or transition to an alternate program that would still increase access to affordable insurance and “help cover millions of Americans that remain uninsured.” The new plan would place an emphasis on HSAs, or health savings accounts – wherein people could retain medical insurance only for catastrophic events and instead use funds in their tax-favored HSAs to pay for minor medical bills.
Despite what would seem to be an olive-branch from the two Republicans, prominent Democrat Charles Schumer of New York had little positive to say about the proposal.
“Millions of Americans would be kicked off their plans, out-of-pocket costs and deductibles for consumers would skyrocket, employer-based coverage for working families would be disrupted, and protections for people with pre-existing conditions, such as cancer, would be gutted,” Schumer said. “It is nearly impossible to keep the benefits of the Affordable Care Act without keeping the whole thing.”
President Trump signed an executive order intended to aid in the unraveling of the Affordable Care Act hours after swearing into office, but the language included in the order left quite a bit of room to maneuver, leaving many in the industry, and many Americans with their coverage in the balance, uncertain of their fate. Despite sharing a party with the president, Collins was not encouraged by the order he signed.
“The executive order is very confusing, and we really don’t know yet what the impact would be,” she said. “We need legislation.”
Whether or not other members of the GOP would be willing to consider a plan that leaves Obamacare intact in any parts of the country is yet to be determined, and Schumer’s statements seem to be in keeping with his, and most current politician’s, motus operandi: which is refusing to make even a vague attempt at cooperation and instead choosing to enforce party lines.
Even if the proposed plan proves impractical, this type of political gesture should be seen as a positive step by members of the GOP, but instead may leave Collins and Cassidy out in the cold – sullied in the eyes of Republicans for daring to reach across the aisle, and flatly rejected by Democrats for being a member of the wrong party.
A compromise might be what this country needs, but only time will tell if our elected officials will be willing to entertain such a foreign concept in today’s polarized political climate.
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