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Republican ACA Bill Backers Race to Please John McCain

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The Republican leaders of the Senate Finance Committee are doing what they can to scrape up a majority in the Senate for the Graham-Cassidy-Heller-Johnson bill.

The committee says it will hold a hearing on the Affordable Care change bill at 10 a.m. EDT Monday, according to a hearing notice.

Earlier this week, Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., one of the sponsors of the bill, and the chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, tried to help the Graham-Cassidy bill by scheduling a hearing on the concept of using state block grants to reduce health care costs.

(Related: Health Care Service Corp. ACA Exchange Plans Look Better: Moody’s)   

Now that the Senate Finance Committee has scheduled a hearing, Johnson has canceled his committee’s hearing.

“I appreciate the Senate Finance Committee’s willingness to hold a hearing on this important health care reform bill,” Johnson said in a statement.

Johnson said in the statement that he had scheduled his committee’s hearing in the first place because no committee with direct jurisdiction over the bill had scheduled a hearing.

Republican Senator Math

Graham-Cassidy bill backers believe that they will get no votes from Democrats or independents and will need to attract the votes of at least 50 of the Senate’s Republicans to get the bill through the Senate. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., has said he will vote against the bill because it does not eliminate enough of the ACA.

Several other Republicans, including John McCain of Arizona, Susan Collins of Maine, and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, have expressed concerns about the bill, or uncertainty about the bill.

McCain, in particular, has said that he would like to see the Senate hold hearings and try to work with the Democrats, and some observers are saying that one of the main goals of the organizers of the Senate Finance Committee hearing is to persuade McCain to vote for the Graham-Cassidy bill.

Graham-Cassidy Bill Basics

The individual major medical insurance open enrollment period for 2018 is set to start Nov. 1, and the federal fiscal year starts Oct. 1. Congressional Republican leaders want to get an ACA change bill to President Donald Trump’s desk by the end of the month.

At this point, health insurers still don’t know what the rules for health coverage will be in 2018 or what kinds of subsidy payments the government will make.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., has teamed up with Johnson, and with Bill Cassidy of Louisiana and Dean Heller of Nevada, to introduce an ACA change bill based partly on an outline Cassidy introduced at a Health Agents for America meeting in New Orleans in the summer of 2016.

The Graham-Cassidy bill would kill the Affordable Care Act individual mandate and employer mandate provisions; replace the current ACA subsidy programs with new state block grant programs; leave the ACA public exchange system and many ACA coverage rules in place; and let states apply for waivers to change ACA commercial health insurance rules.

The bill would leave some major ACA taxes, including the Medicare surtax and net investment tax, in place. 

— Read How to Compromise on Universal Health Care on ThinkAdvisor.

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