WASHINGTON – Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) said on Tuesday that the administration is scaring Americans to death by rooting for Obamacare’s implosion, while the Republican Party has tried to present a “snap-vote” solution with hidden healthcare language.
“The combination of discussion about repeal with an administration that frankly has rooted for an implosion has gotten people very, very frightened in the most important area of their life,” Kaine said during a hearing of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions. “You cannot fix healthcare with just one party. You can’t fix healthcare with one snap vote with language that nobody has seen.”
Kaine was referring to the Graham-Cassidy-Heller amendment, the last remaining proposal to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. Sens. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.), Bill Cassidy (R-La.) and Dean Heller (R-Nev.) introduced the amendment earlier this summer after Senate Republicans failed to pass a pared-down Obamacare repeal. The plan would ultimately allow states greater discretion over health insurance markets, giving them the option to forego Obamacare mandates.
Like many of his Republican colleagues, Cassidy during Tuesday’s discussion cited the skyrocketing costs of insurance market premiums under Obamacare. Some states have seen 100 to 200 percent premium increases since Obama signed the landmark legislation in 2010. Cassidy described a scenario in Minnesota, a state that he said has done relatively well in comparison to others under Obamacare: a 60-year-old in Minnesota with a family might pay $31,000 a year for a bronze-level Obamacare plan, which carries a family deductible of $13,700.
“So even in a state that’s doing relatively well, it’s $44,000 out in a bad year, plus a pharmaceutical deductible,” he said, adding that he has met with 10 Democratic senators while crafting the amendment.
Cassidy claimed that various states would see drastic improvements under the amendment, including Wisconsin, Missouri, Florida and Kaine’s Virginia.
“Tim, when you see the language, your state will get hundreds of millions of dollars more over five years to care for lower-income Virginians. We have specifically tried to make this a nonpartisan (issue),” he said, noting that Democratic lawmakers and insurance commissioners speaking before the panel on Tuesday were lobbying for state flexibility. “We’re trying to be fair to all Americans no matter where she or he lives. … (States) think they can do more with flexibility than the federal government can do telling him how to do it. … We’re not trying to be partisan. This is bipartisan.”
Kaine said that the amendment itself is not partisan, but the process in which they are trying to gain passage – “a snap vote” – is partisan.
“Healthcare is the most important expenditure anybody ever makes with the dollar in their pocket,” Kaine said. “There’s not one that’s more important. And I think the stakes are existential for us to get this right because, frankly, the last eight months the American public has just been assaulted with words like repeal, implode, sabotage. This government is scaring people to death about the most important expenditure that they’re ever going to make in their life.”
He added that the American public needs to see that Democrats and Republicans will collaborate on healthcare reform.
“They have to see that, and an administration praying for implosion isn’t showing them that,” Kaine said. “They’ve got to see from Congress that in the most important expenditure that anyone will make in their life, we are willing to work together as Democrats and Republicans to solve problems.”
He said the Senate HELP Committee is the last chance that Congress has at reforming the healthcare system.