Congressman Andy Barr says he supports Graham-Cassidy health reform bill for "flexibility" offered to states

09/22/2017 02:44 PM

FRANKFORT – If the U.S. Senate passes the Graham-Cassidy bill reforming the country’s health-care system, count Congressman Andy Barr among those in the U.S. House of Representatives eager to vote for the legislation.

Barr, R-Lexington, said the Graham-Cassidy bill retains the “basic principles” of the American Health Care Act, which cleared the House but failed to gain traction in the Senate.

Barr says he expects a press conference by the Republican Study Committee in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday, where the group of conservative lawmakers will express its support of the measure.

“It incorporates the principles of federalism,” he told reporters after a news conference at the state Capitol on Friday. “It gives the flexibility that our governors want and have requested. Certainly I’ve had conversations with Gov. (Matt) Bevin about the need to give him and his administration more flexibility in customizing Medicaid for Kentucky’s unique and vulnerable Medicaid population.

“This bill, Graham-Cassidy, accomplishes that, and, importantly, the legislation repeals the individual mandate and it repeals the employer mandate, which is holding back employment for many Kentuckians and small businesses that have expressed major concern about Obamacare to my office.”

It’s unclear whether Barr will get an opportunity to cast a vote for Graham-Cassidy, the latest Republican effort to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, as the bill could fall short of the 51 votes necessary to move it through the chamber in a process known as reconciliation.

That fate befell the “skinny repeal” legislation last month, when three Republican senators broke rank and voted against the bill en route to a 49-51 defeat.

U.S. Sens. Rand Paul, R-Ky., and John McCain, R-Ariz., have already signaled that they will not support the Graham-Cassidy bill.

Paul has said the legislation doesn’t go far enough in repealing the Affordable Care Act, commonly known as Obamacare, but others against Graham-Cassidy worry about caps that would be placed on Medicaid and coverage for those with pre-existing conditions.

The Kaiser Family Foundation estimates Kentucky, which expanded Medicaid through executive order under former Gov. Steve Beshear, would lose about $6.3 billion in current federal funding under Graham-Cassidy. About $5.4 billion of that would come from shifting to a block-grant program for Medicaid expansion and insurance subsidies, according to the organization’s analysis.

For Barr, the “hard-dollar number” isn’t as important as the flexibility offered in Graham-Cassidy for states to shape their Medicaid programs.

He also said he would oppose any health-care reform effort “that does not provide many layers of protection for people with pre-existing conditions.”

“It’s not a partisan issue,” Barr said. “Republicans, Democrats, people who are not affiliated with any party, we all in our lifetime experience some kind of health-care crisis, whether it’s ourselves personally or loved ones, and I have talked to too many constituents with concerns about the issue of pre-existing conditions to disregard that issue.”

With a Sept. 30 deadline for reconciliation looming and lawmakers prepping for re-election campaigns in the 2018 midterms, Barr says this is the best chance for the GOP-controlled Congress to pass health-care reform.

But if Congress can’t enact health-care reform this year, Barr says the issue won’t be going away.

“My constituents, Sen. (Mitch) McConnell’s constituents, Sen. Paul’s constituents, they’re not going to stop calling us, begging us to change this law,” he said. “Why? Because premiums continue to increase, deductibles continue to increase under Obamacare. People continue to lose their choices of doctors, and we know that there’s less choices as a result of Obamacare.”


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