WASHINGTON — The U.S. Senate’s latest attempt to repeal and replace the current health care law is on life support after a third Republican senator came out against the legislation Monday.
Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, said she would not vote for the bill brought forward by Sens. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Bill Cassidy of Louisiana.
The U.S. Congressional Budget said its preliminary report of the bill millions of people would lose coverage as a result of a $1 trillion reduction in Medicaid spending and a shift to block grants. States would be allowed to experiment with health care costs because of this method of funding, and also be able to waive certain provisions of the law.
The deficit would decrease by at least $133 billion under the proposal.
Collins said in a statement her three biggest concerns regarded protecting Medicaid, protecting those with pre-existing conditions and decreased coverage with rising costs.
“The Affordable Care Act has many flaws that need to be addressed,” she added. “The current state of health insurance, where premiums are skyrocketing, choices are limited, and small businesses are struggling, needs fixing. My focus will remain on remedying these problems.”
Collins’ statement comes after the Senate Committee on Finance held the only hearing on the legislation. The hearing began with protesters chanting, delaying the start by 15 minutes.
Sens. John McCain of Arizona and Rand Paul of Kentucky have previously said they would oppose the legislation, despite an attempt to provide more funding to their states as well as Alaska. Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska voted against the “skinny repeal” of “Obamacare” in July, though she has not made a statement on this bill.
Senate Republicans can afford only two senators to vote against the bill with it still passing given a vote by Vice President Mike Pence.
Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., previously came out against the latest bill. He said during a Facebook town hall Monday night he would prefer a bipartisan solution.
“It’s a shame we’re down to the point where they’re going to make another run,” he said.
Manchin said during an August appearance in South Charleston he was invited to participate in discussions on improving “Obamacare,” which would have been led by Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., and Patty Murray, D-Wash. Alexander is chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, and Murray serves as the ranking Democrat.
“Everybody was given and taking to where we could stabilize the market,” Manchin added Monday. “That means you have to have the guarantees of the CSRs (cost-sharing reductions) for at least 24 month. With that being said, you want flexibility so that states can explore better ways to more efficiently and effectively take care of your people.”
AARP West Virginia State Director Gaylene Miller said her organization was expecting a bipartisan plan following the failure of the “skinny repeal.”
“Any bill that cuts Medicaid from West Virginia and eliminates coverage from West Virginians is a bad bill for West Virginia,” she said.
Miller said people are tired of the multiple attempts regarding “Obamacare,” adding real progress needs to be made by lawmakers.
“Enough is enough,” she said. “It’s time Congress gives the American people and people in West Virginia some common sense, bipartisan solutions that are going to lower costs and improve coverage.”
Manchin said if the current bill fails, he wants to pick up the bipartisan talks to fix the current health care system.
“We’re going to continue down that pathway,” he said. “(Senate Majority Leader) Mitch McConnell has all the cards right now. He’s the leader, he sets the agenda. He’ll make a decision what he puts up for a vote or not.”
Manchin added he is willing to study the effects of universal health care.
“Let’s find out the pluses and the minuses, and see if that’s where this country wants to go,” he said. “We don’t have enough knowledge. We’re not there yet, but we can fix what’s in front of us. That’s basically preventing 200,000 West Virginians from losing the health care they have right today.”
Saturday is the deadline for the legislation to pass with only 51 votes. If a bill is proposed after Sept. 30, it will require 60 votes for passage.
Mountaineers for Progress, a progressive advocacy group, said in a press release members will gather outside of the Morgantown office of Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., Tuesday to urge her to oppose the legislation. According to Capito spokesperson Ashley Berrang, Capito is evaluating the legislation’s effects.