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Monday, April 6, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Opinion >  Editorial

Cassidy-Graham just another hasty mistake

It’s odd to hear U.S. senators extol the virtues of a health-care proposal that shifts responsibility to the states when they’ve already voted for two bills that didn’t do that.

Just thought of it? No. This latest bid, spearheaded by Republican Sens. Bill Cassidy and Lindsey Graham, is just another desperate attempt to pass something – anything – before the next election.

Congressional Republicans have had seven years since the Affordable Care Act was adopted to settle on a replacement, but now they’re scrambling to meet a Sept. 30 deadline. Missing that deadline would force them to run a bill the normal way, with hearings, a comprehensive CBO analysis and opportunities to hear from doctors, nurses, health policy experts, insurance companies, hospitals and others. And because they would need 60 votes to stave off a filibuster, the bill would to have some semblance of bipartisanship.

In other words, the way the Senate does business on practically every other issue.

To mask this procrastination, Republicans have deemed the current situation a “crisis.” There’s a workplace saying that covers this: “A lack of planning on your part does not constitute an emergency on mine.”

Plus, the crisis is phony. The Affordable Care Act is in need of attention, but it’s not clinging to a cliff. The expanded Medicaid offering is certainly not in crisis, but taking it back would have alarming consequences.

In Washington state, more than 650,000 people could lose Medicaid coverage over the next decade, according to two studies that looked at the Cassidy-Graham plan. The state would also stand to lose about $17 billion in federal funding, which would undermine the subsidies that are crucial to the state’s health-care exchange.

What would the senators have heard if they were proud enough of their plan to hold hearings? A sampling:

  • The American Medical Association says it “violates the precept of ‘first do no harm.’”
  • The American Academy of Pediatric says it “goes even further in its attacks on Medicaid.”
  • The American Association of Retired Persons says it would “jeopardize the ability of older Americans and people with disabilities to stay in their own homes as they age.”
  • The American Psychiatric Association says it “harms our most vulnerable patients.”
  • American Health Insurance Plans fears “further destabilizing the individual market.”
  • Blue Cross Blue Shield Association says the it would “undermine safeguards for those with pre-existing medical conditions.’’

The emergence of Cassidy-Graham has put a halt to the bipartisan work conducted by Washington Sen. Patty Murray, a Democrat, and Tennessee Sen. Lamar Alexander, a Republican. They began their efforts in earnest after “skinny repeal” was shot down in July. At the time, Sen. John McCain, who cast the key vote, said, “We must now return to the correct way of legislating. …”

If put through the regular rigors of legislating, Cassidy-Graham would die on the merits. It’s only because of political considerations that it still has a pulse.

Let it go. Do it the right way. This is too important.

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