GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina said Vermont Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders’ Medicare for all plan being released the same day as the Graham-Cassidy health care bill was a “gift from the political gods.”
While GOP leadership is still short of the votes needed to pass the legislation — introduced last week by, Sens. Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, Graham, Ron Johnson of Wisconsin and Dean Heller of Nevada — Graham told reporters on Tuesday that Sanders’ single-payer proposal “totally” helped sell his bill to members of his conference.
Graham argues the legislation — which aims to replace Medicaid expansion and insurance subsidies with block grants provided to the states — meets conservatives’ goals of returning power back to the states.
While the re-upped health care reform efforts seem to be gaining traction among a number of members, a handful of GOP lawmakers remain unsold.
Sens. Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and John McCain of Arizona said they need to see how the bill will directly impact their states before making a decision. Skeptics fear the formula used to distribute federal funds will have a negative impact on those that opted to expand Medicaid under Obamacare as they would receive significantly less under the policy.
Republican Sen. Rand Paul has been one of its harshest critics, arguing it keeps 90 percent of the Affordable Care Act’s regulations and taxes in place while “reshuffling” billions of dollars from Democratic-leaning states into red states.
Graham acknowledged parts of the structure of Obamacare would stay in order to pay for the reforms but made the case states would be given more flexibility to tackle their individual needs.
“So we do leave most of the taxes in place, we come up with a different way of doing it. So I would tell President Obama, ‘You’ve sort of won the day on it.’ We need to help people with federal government dollars outside of Medicaid,” he told reporters. “But I hope I can win the day and say, all right there’s a better way to help them.”
Graham noted a number of larger states that didn’t opt to expand Medicaid have managed to operate on slimmer budgets than states like Massachusetts and Arizona. According to the senator, the bill could see bipartisan support.
“Listen guys, I tell you this idea is catching on our side big time,” he said. “And there are some folks on that side that are going to have a hard time saying I don’t want more money for my state or more flexibility.”