Cassidy-Graham: Different lipstick, same pig

Ben Horowitz
Sep 06, 2017

U.S. Senators are reportedly still considering a health care bill that would leave millions of Americans uninsured, eliminate protections for expectant mothers and people with mental illnesses, and threaten the stability of state budgets. Known as the Cassidy-Graham plan, this latest version contains many of the bad ideas of its predecessors along with some provisions that are harmful and novel.

Like its predecessors, Cassidy-Graham would:

  • Create massive funding cuts to Medicaid and reduce federal assistance for people buying insurance on the individual market by changing their federal funding mechanisms, resulting in a $2.1 billion annual loss for Minnesota by 2026;
  • Eliminate protections for people with pre-existing conditions by allowing states to waive consumer protections established by the Affordable Care Act (ACA), and by potentially adopting the Cruz Amendment;
  • Cause millions of people to lose their health insurance; and
  • Leave people on the individual insurance market paying more in out-of-pocket costs.

Additionally, Cassidy-Graham eliminates all funding for the ACA’s Medicaid expansion and marketplace subsidies after 2026. The additional Medicaid cuts come on top of the aforementioned $2.1 billion reduction in annual funding for Minnesota. Both policy changes would leave big holes in our state budget, threatening the coverage of the more than 1 million Minnesotans who access affordable health care through Medical Assistance — many of whom are working, caring for a disabled relative, have been laid off, or are dealing with a disability.

The elimination of marketplace subsidies after 2026 would mean that people who aren’t offered insurance through their employer would no longer receive any help to bring down the cost of their health insurance on the individual market — costs that would go up even more under Cassidy-Graham.

Cassidy-Graham also threatens a uniquely Minnesotan and successful avenue to affordable health insurance for people who earn too much to qualify for Medicaid. The bill would reduce funding for MinnesotaCare, placing more than 90,000 Minnesotans’ health insurance in jeopardy. MinnesotaCare covers Minnesotans who earn less than 200 percent of the federal poverty guidelines ($24,120 for a single individual). Since costs on the individual market will also increase under Cassidy-Graham, these Minnesotans are likely to lose their coverage without being offered an affordable alternative.

Just like previous attempts that would reduce the assistance for health insurance available to Americans through the ACA, Cassidy-Graham has been crafted behind closed doors. The proposal is not significantly different from the one that died on the Senate floor last month. A few tweaks around the edges cannot save a bill that is rotten to its core.

Instead of drawing on proposals crafted in the shadows, senators should return from their summer recess and work on strengthening the ACA in a transparent, bipartisan fashion. Right now, the number of people without health insurance represents the lowest share of uninsured Americans ever. Any step in the opposite direction is unacceptable.

-Ben Horowitz