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Exclusive–Sen. Bill Cassidy: Obamacare Repeal Block Grant Proposal ‘Defies the Washington Establishment’

Sen Bill Cassidy Getty
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Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-LA) told Breitbart News in an exclusive interview that his coalition’s Obamacare repeal plan to block grant health care to the states “defies the Washington establishment – it returns power to the states.”

Breitbart News reported on former Senator Rick Santorum’s plan to block grant Obamacare to the states. The plan would allow Republican states to craft a more conservative alternative to the Affordable Care Act, which would lower premiums and other health care costs. Santorum has continued to work with Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Bill Cassidy (R-LA), Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, and House Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows (R-NC) on this Republican plan to repeal and replace Obamacare. Meadows told Breitbart News Daily that the plan has “real merit.”

Sen. Bill Cassidy served as a doctor for 25 years and has provided care for the uninsured and underinsured patients throughout Louisiana’s charity hospital system. He spoke with Breitbart News about his support for the Graham-Cassidy plan to repeal Obamacare by block granting health care to the states.

Sen. Cassidy explained why block granting health care to the states is the right solution to repealing and replacing Obamacare. Cassidy told Breitbart News:

I have been for block granting, but let me just put a point on it. I’m a doctor; I’ve been working in a public hospital for the uninsured for 25 years. I’ve been so frustrated when some politicians come out to cut a ribbon and declared the problem fixed. Indeed, all they’ve done is add more power to the bureaucracy. The lines at the little hospital I’ve worked at got longer.

Obamacare was that on steroids. They took the power out of the states and hospitals and put it in Washington. As far as I’m concerned the more power we push back to the patient, the individual, the American citizen, the more responsive the system is to her needs. Obamacare, is responsive is like a hammer is responsive to a piece of glass. We are ultimately trying to deliver power back to the patient and what me there is working for 25 years as a doctor in a hospital for the uninsured.

Cassidy then explained that his Republican coalition is working around the clock to pass this bill before the September 30 deadline for budgetary reconciliation. He revealed to Breitbart News that Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, Sen. Graham, and himself will speak with all of the Republican governors on their plan on Tuesday. Cassidy said, “We have a call with the governors today, we’re circulating information regarding the formulas, frequently asked questions, a section-by-section breakdown of the bill today. We would like to send the plan to the CBO by Monday, so that way they have enough time to score. If we can tell Mitch McConnell we have 50 votes, ideally we can get a vote on it before the September 30th reconciliation deadline.”

Both Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker and Sen. Graham explained to Breitbart News that they plan to get 25 Republican Governors to come out in favor of the bill. Santorum said that the Governors hope to present the idea “as a solution outside of Washington.”

Cassidy revealed to Breitbart News that although Congress will have to write the legislation to repeal and replace Obamacare, the Governors will have to implement any Obamacare repeal plan. Cassidy argues that governors should have a say in the health care plan that will replace Obamacare.

“In keeping with the fact that we’ve been giving it back to the states, we’ve been working with both governors and state Medicaid directors. It’s their gig. It’s got to work for the states. We’ve had several conference calls with them, today we all come together,” the Louisiana senator said.

Sen. Cassidy suggested that they will include measures proposed by Senate conservative such as Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Mike Lee (R-TX) who want more flexible options towards Obamacare insurance regulations to lower premiums. The senator suggested that through increased waivers through the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), and through the the Health and Human Services (HHS) Department, states can have greatly increased flexibility towards implementing a more conservative healthcare system that will lower overall healthcare costs. Cassidy said:

We’re putting the waivers through the CHIP program. The CHIP program, even if the parliamentarian says nothing else is allowed, and that is a possibility, CHIP which no state ever complains about, gives a lot more flexibility than Obamacare and allows the secretary of HHS to give waivers. I gather that those waivers have been frequently given. The flexibility inherent in CHIP may accomplish which the parliamentarian may allow us to accomplish that we otherwise could not do. But will attempt to incorporate things hoping that the parliamentarian allows them.

The Cruz amendment which we’ve added on, allows health savings accounts to be used to pay for health insurance. This gives states the mechanism to pre-fund health savings accounts to purchase health insurance just like Indiana did under Mike Pence with Medicaid expansion dollars. Even Democratic governors will welcome the flexibility.

Cassidy then revealed that senators such as John McCain (R-AZ), Susan Collins (R-ME), and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) could support this bill. These senators opposed Obamacare repeal bills in the past, but they could ultimately vote for this bill because it will allow their governors to design programs that work best for their home states. Cassidy said:

The real benefit is that this returns power to the states, it returns power to the patients. Although the process may not have been wonderful, I think the product we have which we gets power out of D.C. and returns to the states. I will point out that in Maine, which created the invisible high-risk pool concept, which Obamacare put out of business, which now everyone looks at the problem of high-risk pool cost. So it show that if you give the power back to the states to craft their own solutions, we can give power back to Maine, Alaska, and Arizona, and let them come up with their solutions. This defies the Washington establishment, it returns power to the states.

Sen. Cassidy explained that by block granting health care to the states, states can design innovative health care solutions that would allow citizens to purchase health insurance across states lines, a frequently proposed idea to lower health care costs by Republicans. Cassidy suggested:

The great thing about that is not us deciding these policies. It’s not somebody in Washington, D.C., it is a state saying that this thing will work. So imagine Rhode Island, which can easily have interstate policies with its surrounding states, and somebody in Rhode Island can drive 15 minutes and be in another state and get a competitive health care plan. States can come up with that and drive this up organically and drive down health care costs.

We also relax the Obamacare rule that says you can only charge old people three times as much as a younger person to five times to lowers premiums. That will lower premiums for the young Americans, and this will get them to join in and balance out the risk pool.

We can do a lot better than the Affordable Care Act to balance out the risk pool and that will lower premiums.

Sen. Cassidy concluded, “We can bring health care back to the states and bring power back to patients. I think of that commercial from 1984 when Apple took a hammer and broke the screen. We are throwing a hammer at the screen of Obamacare telling us how to live our health care lives.”

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