Gov. Bill Walker was one of 10 governors who wrote to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer today, asking that the current Republican effort to reform Obamacare be tossed out in favor of the bipartisan approach advocated by Sen. Lisa Murkowski.
The repeal and replacement of Obamacare failed with the aid of Murkowski’s vote this summer. She said the process was flawed and she wanted it to go through her Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions committee.
A new amendment offered by Republicans hopes to make progress on the devastating Obamacare system that has wreaked havoc on the health care system and dominated political discourse since it was passed without a single Republican vote in 2009.
While the U.S. Supreme Court eventually decided that Obamacare was legal because it was equivalent to a tax, the Medicaid expansion mandate was not legal. Thirty-one states adopted Medicaid expansion. Gov. Bill Walker expanded Alaska’s Medicaid in 2015, the last state to do so.
All of the signators from the letter asking for forbearance were from Medicaid expansion states.
McConnell, however, appears to be backing the proposal from Sens. Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Ron Johnson of Wisconsin and Dean Heller of Nevada.
“I’m still looking for more data on how this bill would impact Alaska, but the plan to give power back to the states—the laboratories of democracy—is very compelling. As we have seen with Obamacare, just as we have with so many decrees that come from D.C., a top-down, one-size-fits-all model doesn’t work for our state. I look forward to a committee hearing as soon as next week.” – Sen. Dan Sullivan
Graham said today he will get enough votes on the bill to repeal Obamacare, and he told reporters the House leadership has pledged its support. “You pass it, we pass it,” is how he described House Speaker Paul Ryan’s pledge. The White House, too, supports the bill.
But Gov. Walker said in a statement, “Alaskans pay more for health care than do most Americans. Before any changes to existing law are made, Alaska must have a clear understanding of how the proposed changes impact Alaskans. Right now, more than 36,000 Alaskans have access to affordable health care thanks to Medicaid expansion. And, due to my team’s out-of-the-box thinking and the legislature’s concurrence, some Alaskans’ health insurance premiums are expected to drop 20 percent. That coverage must be protected-which is why I joined a bipartisan group of governors in a continued push for Congress to follow a thorough process. Health care should not be a partisan issue. Building a Stronger Alaska begins with healthy Alaskans.”
Alaskans who buy health insurance on the open market are paying at least 200 percent more for insurance than they did before Obamacare. A recently announced schedule shows those Alaskans will get a 20 percent break in the coming cycle, but that still means hundreds of dollars a month for individuals.
The letter was signed by four Republicans and five Democrats; Walker is not currently with any party and identifies as an undeclared.
“As you continue to consider changes to the American health care system, we ask you not to consider the Graham-Cassidy-Heller-Johnson amendment and renew support for bipartisan efforts to make health care more available and affordable for all Americans. Only open, bipartisan approaches can achieve true, lasting reforms,” the 10 governors wrote.
“Chairman Lamar Alexander and Ranking Member Patty Murray have held bipartisan hearings in the Senate’s Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee, and have negotiated in good faith to stabilize the individual market. At the committee’s recent hearing with Governors, there was broad bipartisan agreement about many of the initial steps that need to be taken to make individual health insurance more stable and affordable. We are hopeful that the HELP committee, through an open process, can develop bipartisan legislation and we believe their efforts deserve support.”
“We ask you to support bipartisan efforts to bring stability and affordability to our insurance markets. Legislation should receive consideration under regular order, including hearings in health committees and input from the appropriate health-related parties. Improvements to our health insurance markets should control costs, stabilize the market, and positively impact coverage and care of millions of Americans, including many who are dealing with mental illness, chronic health problems, and drug addiction.”
The Graham-Cassidy bill would have to pass by a simple majority vote by the end of the month. By using the budget reconciliation approach, it will dodge a Democrat filibuster. But the clock is ticking on this last-ditch effort.