Gov. Doug Ducey announced his support today for a Republican health care plan that could drop millions from coverage, an endorsement that came despite the lack of analysis from the state’s health care number-crunchers.
The Graham-Cassidy bill to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act would spend less money overall on health care and put more power in the hands of states through block grants.
Ducey called the plan the “best path forward” to repeal Obamacare in a tweet today.
He said he’s going to keep working with Congress and the Trump administration to advocate for state flexibility in health care spending.
“Congress has 12 days to say ‘yes’ to Graham-Cassidy. It’s time for them to get the job done,” the governor wrote on Twitter.
— Doug Ducey (@dougducey) September 18, 2017
In general, the plan would get rid of tax credits for middle-class people and end Medicaid expansion in 2020 in favor of a market-based block grant program that would give states a lump sum of money to spend on health care.
Proponents of the bill say they’re just a few votes shy of passing it in the U.S. Senate.
But while the plan hasn’t yet been officially scored by the Congressional Budget Office, some groups, such as the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, a liberal think tank, have said it would drop “many millions” from coverage.
Last week, Ducey said he needed to know more about the Graham-Cassidy plan and how it would affect Arizona before taking a position on it. But he said then he was supportive of block grants, a central component of the bill.
There are a lot of people who provide statistics on the effects of legislation, he told reporters last week, but he will rely primarily on the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System’s analysis, he said.
But AHCCCS has not yet completed an analysis of the Graham-Cassidy plan, so it’s unknown exactly what the impacts of the bill would be on the state.
Still, the governor’s office said Ducey is supporting the plan because Obamacare needs to be repealed and replaced, and the Graham-Cassidy bill is the best way to do that.
“This should come as no surprise,” Ducey spokesman Patrick Ptak said of the governor’s support for Graham-Cassidy.
The governor’s office has “publicly expressed openness to some form of a block grant with flexibility for governors” since February, Ptak said in an email.
Ducey’s support for the plan could be instrumental in its success. Sen. John McCain has repeatedly said he’s leaning on Ducey’s analysis of a repeal-and-replace plan, making Ducey’s role in the process outsized.
When the previous attempt at Obamacare replacement, the so-called “skinny repeal,” came up for a vote, McCain joined two other senators to vote against the plan. He has called for a return to regular order in Senate, and has said any plan should have debates and hearings.
McCain spokeswoman Julie Tarallo told Capitol Media Services on Monday that her boss is reviewing the bill “to assess its impact on the people of Arizona.” But she said he is wary of these kind of last-minute maneuvers with the details hammered out in offices and sent to the floor in a rush.
“As he has said before, Sen. McCain believes health care reform should go through the regular order of hearings, open debate, and amendments from both sides of the aisle,” Tarallo said.
U.S. Sen. Jeff Flake, on the other hand, gave Graham-Cassidy the thumbs-up.
“#GrahamCassidy plan to #RepealAndReplace #Obamacare has my support. It ought to be brought to the senate floor,” Flake tweeted Sunday.
— Jeff Flake (@JeffFlake) September 18, 2017
The legislation is being crafted by three Republicans: Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Dean Heller of Nevada.
In essence, it would blow up the Affordable Care Act with its system of mandated health insurance and subsidies for those who cannot afford the premiums. Instead, the federal cash — at least some of it — would be given to the states in the form of block grants to decide exactly how they want to fashion their own health care systems for the needy, those who do not qualify for Medicaid but cannot afford commercial health insurance.
States could also scrap many of the regulations that now exist under the Affordable Care Act. And it would cut federal Medicaid dollars.
-This story includes information from Capitol Media Services.