Wash. senators sound off against GOP health care bill

KING 5's Natalie Brand reports.

All eyes will be on the U.S. Senate next week where the latest GOP health care bill could go to the floor -- but does it have the votes?

In a major blow to the latest Republican Obamacare repeal effort, Senator John McCain said he will oppose the Graham Cassidy bill, saying “a bill impacting so many lives deserves a bipartisan approach.”

With no Senate Democrats supporting the proposal, Republicans can afford to lose no more than two votes. Senators Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, have not yet stated how they’ll vote. Senator Collins has said she's "leaning no."

Washington’s two Democratic Senators remain firmly opposed to the legislation. As one of the states that expanded Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, Washington would stand to lose federal funding.

“No governor has come forward and said 'I have the money to take care of Medicaid,'” said Senator Maria Cantwell on Friday.

Under the Graham-Cassidy Bill, there would be a redistribution of medicaid expansion and ACA subsidy money to individual states, in block grants, allowing individual states to come up with their own plans.

“The best thing about this program is I'm taking money out of Washington and bringing it home. And if you don't like what's going on in your healthcare life, you can complain to your state house or your governor and they will listen to you,” Senator Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina, told NBC this week.

While a CBO score has not yet been completed, analysis by healthcare experts shows states that expanded Medicaid, under the Affordable Care Act, would stand to lose funding, whereas states with lower Medicaid benefits and no expansion would stand to gain.

>>Related: Analysis shows which states would win or lose, via the Washington Post

>>Related: Additional analysis by Kaiser Family Foundation

>>Related: Letter by Gov. Jay Inslee and Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler on GOP health care bill 

“It shouldn’t be just a pot of money that’s just moved around,” argued Sen. Cantwell. “I would ask any governor to say today I have an idea of how I’m going to pay for healthcare in my state if you cut this program in 2027.”

The last-ditch repeal effort comes ahead of a September 30 deadline to pass a bill under reconciliation rules, requiring just a simple majority.

“I had been able to actually sleep for the first time in months, during the month of August,” said Julie Negrin of Mercer Island, a four-time cancer patient, who pledged to end her treatment if the last repeal effort passed. 

“It’s hard to explain to other people what it’s like to be medically fragile, or a child that’s medically fragile, but you feel more vulnerable than you can possibly imagine.”

Negrin joined Senator Cantwell and Medicaid recipient Jazmin Williams at Friday’s news conference in Seattle.

“It’s important that my daughter has access to what she needs,” said Williams whose seven-year-old daughter has a complicated brain disorder called AVM that causes stroke like seizures.

“It’s a nightmare of mine to go through this,” she continued, describing that one recent procedure required by her daughter cost twice her annual income. 

Meanwhile, bipartisan group of governors who worry that their states will not be able to absorb the extra cost if federal funding is cut, wrote Senate leaders this week and urged them to return to a bipartisan approach.

The Governors, including Ohio’s John Kasich and Colorado’s John Hickenlooper, cited the recent efforts of Senators Patty Murray, D-Washington, and Lamar Alexander, R-Tennessee, who had been holding bipartisan health care hearings for the past few weeks.

“We’ve been frozen now by (Majority Leader) Mitch McConnell,” said Senator Murray of the hearings now on hold.

“If this vote goes down, we put it behind us, I am committed to getting that bipartisan work done because,  the fact is, we do have bare counties; we do face the threat of rising insurance policies, and I want to get that fixed,” Murray continued. 

© 2017 KING-TV


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