The latest Republican-led effort to create a replacement for the Affordable Care Act is losing support in the U.S. Senate and probably won’t even go to a vote.
Both of Iowa’s U.S. senators plan to attend a caucus meeting this afternoon to discuss the so-called Graham-Cassidy measure, but Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley says it’s likely already doomed.
“I’d be surprised if it even comes to a vote,” Grassley says. “If what the news is reporting, we’ve lost at least three and maybe five Republicans. What’s the point of bringing it to a vote?” Grassley, a Republican, says it’s a “regret” that the health care situation has ended up this way.
Grassley says, “We’re not delivering on a campaign promise of repeal and replace, although repeal is not a very good word to use because we’re just amending the really bad things about Obamacare.”
The Graham-Cassidy bill promised to shift ACA funding into block grants that would go to the states, while slashing funding to Medicaid and letting the states back away from some federal insurance regulations. Grassley say the original proposal didn’t favor Iowa in the least, but he would’ve supported the latest version.
“Evidently, there was some scoring that was done that Iowa would lose money,” Grassley says. “Now, the legislation’s been changed so that Iowa, over the course of the life of the bill, and it doesn’t sunset until 2030, that Iowa would pick up about $400-million.”
Iowa’s other Senator, Joni Ernst, says the bill, which appeared earlier in the month to be gaining popularity, just doesn’t have the votes it would need.
“People are still concerned,” Ernst says, “and we’ve had a number of our own Republican senators who’ve come out and said they won’t support it.” Ernst, a Republican from Red Oak, says more flexibility at the state level is needed in whatever is crafted to replace the Affordable Care Act.
“We know in Iowa, Obamacare is failing,” Ernst says. “We have many folks that can’t afford their insurance on the individual market anymore. We have to craft a way forward.”
Minnesota-based Medica is the only company left on Iowa’s exchange that’s selling individual policies. In May, the company announced plans to raise rates an average of 43 percent next year, but now Medica says it may have to go even higher with the premiums. Those with the so-called silver plan may be facing a hike of nearly 57 percent.
“Obamacare is broken,” Ernst says. “We have to do what’s right for our constituents and that doesn’t mean boxing out our hardworking small business owners, farmers and ranchers, boxing them out of the insurance industry by making it too expensive.” Ernst says she’s “very frustrated” by the situation.
(Bob Fisher, KRIB, Mason City contributed to this report)