Last month, U.S. Sen. John McCain, an Arizona Republican battling brain cancer, stunned his party by voting against a “skinny repeal” of the Affordable Care Act — casting GOP efforts to repeal the controversial law into doubt.
But when Congress reconvenes on Sept. 5, U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina, will co-sponsor an Obamacare replacement bill that replaces federal dollars spent on health insurance — an estimated $110 billion in 2016 — with state-by-state block grants.
The result would mean an $850 million increase to South Carolina by 2020, to $1.57 billion, a 123 percent jump from last year’s $694.2 million allocation.
“The goal is to have the money in the hands of people that you actually know. If health care were run by your state, then your state house representatives, governor and all your elected officials would listen to you because they’re in charge, and chances are they would go to the same hospital you go to,” Graham said in Laurens on Wednesday. “I’m trying to connect outcomes, I’m trying to have transparency and accountability. I don’t know if this will work or not, but I think it is an elegant solution to a complicated problem.
“If you believe government closest to the people is the best government, why not health care?”
Currently, four states — California, New York, Massachusetts and Maryland — receive 36 percent of federal health care spending, but account for 20 percent of the nation’s total population.
Graham and U.S. Rep. Jeff Duncan, R-Laurens, said the disproportionate funding and heavy regulation that comes with the money makes it difficult for millions of Americans to obtain health insurance.
“Why are people leaving the market in terms of health care providers? Obamacare is set up so that basically, you get a lot of sick people coming into the system and not enough healthy people offsetting it. I really think it was designed to have government take over health care,” Graham said. “Having policies that meet the needs of an individual based on how their life changes is my goal, having more than one company selling insurance is my goal.”
Duncan, in a meeting with the Index-Journal on Thursday, said he backs the concept of decentralized funding for health care.
“At the end of the day, we’re looking at plans that have the ability also to pass Congress,” Duncan said. “House conservatives have long said we like block grants to the states to give them more flexibility and spend the money in the ways they want, but I think we have to address Medicaid expansion. You’re pitting one state against another or multiple states that didn’t expand against the states that did, and you shouldn’t have that in the United States of America for federal tax dollars.”
Both men believe the health care debate will be revived after the August recess.
“Health care is not dead, no matter what you hear. We’re going to take another shot at it, and we owe it to the public to try and replace Obamacare, because we made a promise, and I am going to try and keep that promise,” Graham said.
Contact staff writer Adam Benson at 864-943-5650 or on Twitter @ABensonIJ.