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Cassidy Eyes Changes to Health Care Bill While Trying to Win Support

Senate GOP opted not to take a vote on measure last week

Louisiana Sen. Bill Cassidy has not given up on his health care overhaul plans. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)
Louisiana Sen. Bill Cassidy has not given up on his health care overhaul plans. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Louisiana Sen. Bill Cassidy said there will be changes to a proposal he wrote to overhaul the 2010 health law as he and fellow Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina try to win more support for the measure while other lawmakers focus on tax legislation.

“There are some things that inevitably have to change, but we do think that the format of what we’re doing and the principles of what we’re doing are good and that the American people will like it because it’s ultimately about fairness,” Cassidy said Monday on the Big Story Podcast with CQ Roll Call.

[Podcast: Cassidy Says He’s Not Giving Up on His Health Care Plan]

Cassidy and Graham released a new plan to roll back and replace parts of the 2010 law last month. Senate leaders had hoped to vote on the plan before a Sept. 30 deadline when the fiscal 2017 budget reconciliation instructions would have allowed Republicans in the chamber to repeal parts of the law, commonly known as Obamacare, without Democratic support.

But despite some initial momentum, Graham and Cassidy did not secure enough support for the measure. Republicans opted not to take a doomed vote on the plan last week. GOP leaders say they could return to a health care overhaul later during the 115th Congress.

The plan would convert funding that finances health care tax credits, cost-sharing reduction payments and Medicaid expansion into block grants for states to finance insurance coverage. Their proposal would also cap Medicaid funding to states based on the number of traditional enrollees.

Their most recent bill would authorize the block grants between 2020 and 2026, but because lawmakers have postponed a vote, they may have to push back that timeline if they revive the bill. Additionally, under reconciliation rules, their bill would have to save at least as much as the House-passed bill would, which may change in newer versions.

“We were also adapting to how much money the House of Representatives said we have to save and a couple of other factors that may or may not be there the next time we do it,” Cassidy said. “So will we keep everything exactly the same? No.”

He said the lawmakers already had to adjust the original formula they used to decide how much each state would get in a block grant because they had not anticipated the “incredible” inflation rates of the individual health insurance market.

Cassidy said he and other sponsors need to promote the plan in the coming months so people can learn about the changes the bill would make and better understand it. He said that time could also be used to address concerns of lawmakers such as Arizona GOP Sen. John McCain, who had concerns with the abbreviated process.

Neither the Senate Finance Committee nor the Health Education, Labor and Pensions Committee has indicated they have plans to hold more hearings on the bill. The Finance Committee had a hearing on the legislation before it was pulled last week.

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