Sen. Chuck Grassley’s office didn’t respond to questions from Little Village about the senator’s position on Cassidy-Graham, the Affordable Care Act repeal bill Republicans are rushing through the U.S. Senate, but Grassley has finally spoken publicly about the bill. He did not, however, directly address how he intends to votes, and from his comments, it’s not clear if Grassley understands what is in the bill.
On Wednesday, Vox published Grassley’s response after its reporter Jeff Stein asked if he “could explain, in broad detail, what the point of Graham-Cassidy is.” Grassley replied:
Let me give you a political answer, and then I’ll give you a substance answer.
The political answer is that Republicans have promised for seven years that we were going to correct all the things that were wrong with Obamacare, and we failed the first eight months. This is the last attempt to do what we promised in the election.
The substance answer is that Obamacare starts with the principle that all knowledge about health care, and all decisions on health care, ought to rest in Washington, D.C. The complete opposite of that is Graham-Cassidy, that Washington doesn’t know best and we’ll let each of the 50 states [decide what’s best].
During a conference call with Iowa reporters on Wednesday, Grassley also spoke about the bill, but again stressed the political expediency of passing it over substance, according to a report in The Des Moines Register. (Little Village was not invited to participate in the conference call.)
“You know, I could maybe give you 10 reasons why this bill shouldn’t be considered,” Grassley said. ”But Republicans campaigned on this so often that you have a responsibility to carry out what you said in the campaign. That’s pretty much as much of a reason as the substance of the bill.”
Grassley did not address the particulars of Graham-Cassidy, which he called “a deregulation bill from Washington D.C.,” according to the Register.
Cassidy-Graham would remove protections for people with preexisting conditions, create new restrictions on women’s health care and reduce subsidies for individuals buying their own insurance. It would also cut federal health care spending in Iowa by more than half a billion dollars, according to an analysis by the Center for Budget and Public Priorities.
The bill would transform Medicaid into a block grant program, with the federal government financing according to how many people a state has enrolled in the program, rather than how much it cost to provide medical treatment for patients. The Kaiser Family Foundation has said states like Iowa, where the population is older than the national average, “may have the hardest time responding” to the way Cassidy-Graham changes Medicaid.
Grassley, on the other hand, was optimistic about the impact of the bill during the conference call. “The upside of it is, we’re going to give states the opportunity to deliver health care more efficiently and effectively, and in a more affordable manner than Obamacare has in the past,” he said.
Grassley did not explain how the Graham-Cassidy bill would accomplish that.