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Senate candidates have concerns over Graham-Cassidy healthcare bill

By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter

The U.S. Senate is considering yet another plan to repeal and replace Obamacare, and opinions are mixed on the compromise Graham-Cassidy-Heller-Johnson bill that is being promoted currently as the most viable plan to repeal and replace President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act.

All three candidates for U.S. Senate have expressed at least some reservations about the bill as it is currently composed.

“Time and again, I have heard from Alabamians all over the state who are concerned with the ever-increasing cost of health insurance, health care, and increases in out of pocket expenses,” Democratic candidate Doug Jones said. “Folks also want to know that any proposed reforms will also prevent the loss of coverage for pre-existing conditions. Any bill that does not protect Alabamians and adequately address those concerns is a nonstarter for me.”

U.S. Sen. Luther Strange, R-Ala., recently expressed some concerns with the bill as it is currently written in an interview with CBS Channel 42 WIAT.

“Well the thing I like about it is it returns money back to the states to decide how to best spend it so,” Strange said. “The people in Alabama know better how to deal with Medicaid and healthcare than somebody in Washington, so I love that part of it.”

“What I want to ensure, is that our children’s hospital, our truly needy, disabled people that are intended to get relief actually get it and so I am hoping that they are going to answer my concerns about those things,” Strange added, however. “I am glad the President supports it. We need to get something done, because this is a failing law. It is hurting our citizens right now so I am going to do everything I can to make sure it works for Alabama, get it passed.”

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“I support the concept of it very much so I haven’t seen the specifics of how it affects Alabama yet so I am not signed off totally until I make sure that our citizens are protected,” Strange said when asked whether he supports the bill or not. “There is 50 states. Alabama has done the right thing but our people deserve to be treated fairly and I want to make sure that happens,”

Saturday, Bill Armistead, the chairman for the Roy Moore for U.S. Senate Campaign released a statement on the Strange comments.

“This morning in a CBS interview in Birmingham, Luther Strange put his swamp skills on full display, now saying that he cannot be certain to vote for the Graham-Cassidy version of the partial Obamacare repeal,” Armistead said.

“For several days now, Strange’s allies have been suggesting that Strange would be the better advocate for Alabama because he can work with the DC leadership and have used the Graham-Cassidy healthcare bill as an example,” Armistead continued. “They have said that Strange would work with them on a partial repeal of Obamacare to support the President, while Roy Moore would be too principled to achieve progress on either a full or partial repeal. Now, Strange is saying that he likes certain aspects of the bill but cannot make a decision on whether he can vote for the bill. Ironically, Roy Moore takes the same exact position. However, their reasons for uncertainty are very different.

“Perhaps this is why Alabama is losing its patience with Mitch McConnell and Luther Strange, and this is why Roy Moore will win the nomination on Tuesday.”

Moore has called for repealing Obamacare without replacing it with new legislation.

The Senate has rejected the American Healthcare Act passed by the House without serious consideration. A clean simple repeal of Obamacare with no replacement was rejected by the Senate, the so-called “skinny-repeal bill” was defeated with three Republican senators, and all the Democrats voted against it. Cassidy-Graham as an attempt to craft a compromise that would pass. Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz.; Susan Collins, R-Maine; Rand Paul, Ky.; and Ted Cruz, R-Texas, have all expressed concerns with the bill as written. Moderates worry that it does not do enough to help the needy, and conservatives worry that it leaves too much of Obamacare in place. As of press time, the Hill is reporting that passage appears unlikely.

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Thursday, The Alabama Political Reporter talked with protesters outside of the Republican Senate debate that were urging Strange to vote “NO” on Cassidy-Graham. They told APR that Cassidy-Graham is worse than the last bill, and that Congress should leave the ACA – Obamacare – in place.

APR asked them what plan would they support. They said that Congress should work in a bipartisan fashion on healthcare and that ultimately they would like to see a single payer model.

The Senate Republican primary runoff is today, Sept. 26.

The winner will face Doug Jones in the special general election on Dec. 12, 2017.

Polls open at 7 a.m. and close at 7 p.m.

Brandon Moseley is a former reporter at the Alabama Political Reporter.

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