Republicans Plug Health Care Bill As 'Better Than the Status Quo,' Only Way to Prevent Socialism

By Susan Jones | September 20, 2017 | 5:40 AM EDT

Senate Republicans tout their health care alternative at a news conference on Tuesday, Sept. 19, 2017. (Screen grab from C-SPAN)

( - The latest Republican health care bill isn't repeal and it isn't replace, but "it is better than the status quo by far," Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) told a news conference on Tuesday. "And I think that's an argument we're all comfortable with making," McConnell added.

McConnell asked two of the bill's sponsors, Sens. Lindsey Graham (S.C.) and Bill Cassidy (La.) to explain their plan:

"You can have different opinions about the quality of this bill," Graham said. "At the end of the day, this is the only process left available to stop a march towards socialism. We have between now and the end of the month to have a vote and a debate about whether this is better than the status quo.

"My friends on the other side are never going to agree to a bipartisan proposal that does anything other than prop up Obamacare," Graham continued. “We've had weeks of talking, and the only time they've gotten serious is when they're afraid that my bill may pass. And now they're coming to me – ‘What about this and what about that?’"

Graham said he's talked to President Trump five times in the last two days, and he's "focused like a laser" and "very excited about this state-centric health care system."

Graham also said his legislation has the support of House Speaker Paul Ryan: "Paul Ryan told me to my face, if you pass it, we pass it."

Sen. Cassidy, a physician, briefly described the Republican plan:

"What we attempt to do is to take all the (Obamacare) dollars that are here in Washington, D.C., dole it out at as the state jumps through a hoop, and return it down to the states for the states to do that which is best for that state.

"If you're in a state which has not expanded Medicaid, you're going to do great. And all those lower-income Texans, Floridians, Mainers, Virginians, Missourians will have dollars in their state to help them get health insurance that they currently do not have," Cassidy said.

If you're a state which has expanded Medicaid, we do our best to hold you harmless. We don't want to hurt folks." Cassidy said Medicaid would be run through the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) program, which is administered by states.

Cassidy said it will be easier for states to get waivers for various Obamacare regulations, but not unless those states assure the secretary of Health and Human Services that they will continue to provide “adequate and affordable coverage for those with preexisting conditions. That is our backstop,” Cassidy said.

He said block granting health care dollars to the states will make them more “inventive.”

Sen. Graham said Obamacare and "Berniecare" are driving the country into bankruptcy:

“So here's the choice for America -- socialism or federalism when it comes to your health care? Four states get 40 percent of the money under Obamacare -- New York, California, Massachusetts and Maryland. They represent 20 percent of the population.

“Our goal is by 2026 to make sure that every patient in every state gets the same contribution, roughly, from the federal government and allow people in your states to make decisions that would have been made in Washington.”

Graham said state control of health care will work "because the people in charge will be accountable to you, unlike Obamacare, where the person in charge could give a damn of what you think."

“I'm trying to take the money and power in Washington and send it back closer to the patient,” Graham continued. “If you believe government closer to the people is the best government, why not healthcare?” he asked.

“And finally, we know how this movie ends if we don't change. We're going to have a single-payer healthcare system in this country that's going to bust the budget, and we're going to start rationing care like you've never seen.”

Graham said he really believes the Senate will muster the necessary 50 votes to pass the Graham-Cassidy bill.

And he said he would hate to be the Democrat who votes against more money for his state.

"So if you're a Democrat, let's say in Missouri, you're going to get far more money under this proposal than Obamacare, and your state would have more control over the money. To reject that money and that control means you believe that somebody in Washington cares more about people in Missouri than people in Missouri. You believe it's OK to help California, New York, Maryland and Massachusetts more than Missouri. That's just what a Democrat would have to face if they voted no.

“If you're a Republican and you vote against federalism, you've got to explain to people back home why Washington knows better,” Graham said.

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