After failing numerous times this summer to fulfill their nearly decade-long promise to repeal former president Barack Obama’s signature health care bill, Senate Republicans might be on the brink of a breakthrough.
A proposal sponsored by Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Bill Cassidy (R-LA) would overhaul the current system under the Affordable Care Act by sending revenue from ACA taxes to the 50 states in block grants. The states would be allowed to apply for waivers of current ACA regulations that require all health plans to cover certain “essential health benefits” such as maternity care.
The bill would also end Medicaid’s status as an open-ended entitlement, placing a cap on the program that would cut it by tens of billions of dollars over the next decade.
Supporters of the measure say it would give states greater freedom to pursue health systems that work better for their populations. Detractors say combining Medicaid caps with the provision allowing states to opt out of certain coverage areas would lead to health care becoming unavailable for those who need it most.
The Kaiser Family Foundation estimates Florida would see a $7.5 billion drop in federal health care funding under Graham-Cassidy from 2020-2026.
Republicans have indicated they are willing to vote on the measure before the Congressional Budget Office can conduct a thorough analysis of how the bill will affect Floridians — or any other American.
It is unclear whether Republicans have the votes to pass the measure. No Senate Democrats support it. But if it does pass, it could mean the first step in a major change in the way Floridians receive health care.
We asked declared and likely 2018 gubernatorial candidates where they stand on the measure.
Jack Latvala, the Florida State Senator from Clearwater who declared his candidacy in August, said although he supports the idea of block grants, he’d have to learn more about the proposal before he could support or oppose it.
“When they pass a bill and we have an analysis of what it does to Florida, we’ll be able to talk about it,” Latvala said. “Put me down as undecided at this point.”
Adam Putnam, the Florida Agriculture Commissioner who declared his candidacy in May, issued the following statement:
“Obamacare has hurt Florida – it has destroyed jobs, cost businesses money and cut Floridians’ access to healthcare. Prices are going up, and choices are going down. Currently, Floridians in 47 of our 67 counties have just one insurer to choose from in the Obamacare marketplace. We must replace Obamacare with a solution that puts Floridians first, one that ensures Floridians have access to high quality healthcare at an affordable price by increasing competition in the marketplace. Congress needs to focus, for once, and get this done.”
Richard Corcoran, the speaker of the Florida House who has not officially declared for governor but who may run, did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
Ron DeSantis, the U.S. Rep. who has not officially declared for governor but who looks to be exploring a run, did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
Andrew Gillum, the Tallahassee mayor who declared his run in March tweeted his opposition to the bill earlier this week, saying it would "gut" Florida healthcare funding.
Gwen Graham, the former U.S. Rep. who declared her candidacy in May, emailed the following statement:
“Graham-Cassidy, the latest version of repeal, will slash Florida’s Medicaid funding by $2.6 billion. These cuts will directly impact seniors who depend on the program for nursing home care. Any Florida politician, in Tallahassee or Washington, who supports this legislation and the cuts to nursing home care should be ashamed,” Graham said. “In Congress, I was proud to vote against repealing the Affordable Care Act, and, as governor, I will fight for a Florida public option to expand access and lower costs.”
Chris King, the Orlando lawyer who declared his candidacy in March, issued the following statement through spokesman Omar Khan:
“Chris opposes the Graham-Cassidy bill. Like a majority of Americans, he opposes attempts to take health care away from millions of people. Instead of focusing on ways to take away health care from Americans, Congress should work on ways to provide affordable quality health care for all. Regardless of what happens in Congress, Chris King is focused on what he will do as Governor to ensure that every Floridian has access to quality affordable health care. Expanding Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act to cover another 800,000 Floridians is a first step -- and one that our one-party Republican controlled state government has refused to take.”
Philip Levine, the mayor of Miami Beach who has not officially declared his candidacy, issued the following statement:
“As an entrepreneur, I believe access to affordable health care coverage is paramount. We cannot go backwards on our efforts to deliver a stronger healthcare system, which is why a number of bipartisan leaders have urged Congress to strengthen and fix the Affordable Care Act—not repeal it. It’s time for Congress to come together in a bipartisan way to fix our health care challenges, instead of trying to score political points.”