Is this the Zombie (Bill) Apocalypse?

Whiplash much? I don’t know how you feel, but the latest in healthcare policy news makes me feel like I’ve just been hit by a boomerang someone threw in July – lulled into relief when the “skinny repeal” died, then slapped upside the head with the current last ditch effort at passing an Obamacare repeal while they still have a chance to squeeze it by with 50 votes.


Meet the zombie. This back from the dead bill is a last ditch attempt to repeal Obamacare, or the Affordable Care Act, before the Senate loses its ability to pass it with only 50 votes. It is not bipartisan, and it goes even farther than the one that Senators Lisa Murkowski, Susan Collins, and John McCain killed this summer

It’s a punt. Federal lawmakers would cede their responsibilities to the states by transforming funding into limited block grants. The block grants would be distributed evenly to the states (those that expanded Medicaid under Obamacare would lose millions of dollars). Basically, that means that the Federal government gives each state a limited amount of money every year to use for healthcare, but with few, if any, guidelines on how it should be spent.

There would be no individual or employer mandate to support coverage. There would be no subsidies, and while insurance would not be able to charge people with pre-existing conditions more, there are easy outs on the type of comprehensive coverage necessary for chronic patients to survive

Funding would be cut by a third by 2026. In less than 10 years, the individual markets would virtually disappear due tounaffordable plans and potentially tens of millions of people would lose coverage through that and capped Medicare spending. Each state would determine its own Essential Health Benefits, so required coverage would narrow, if there was any at all.

What makes this round even worse than the summer is that stalwarts Collins and Murkowski have been unexpectedly quiet. Without last time’s bribe of a vote on full, immediate repeal, Senator Rand Paul has been tweeting his objections, but he has not said outright that he will vote against. John McCain, who hammered home the nail in the last bill’s coffin with a dramatically gladiatorial thumbs down? Though nothing he objected to has changed – lack of proper Congressional procedure through Committee hearings, public debate, etc. – he is close to co-sponsor Lindsay Graham, and has not come out against the bill, either.


But Cassidy-Graham isn’t the only bill on the block right now, though the others don’t have the same amount of backing.

Medicare for All

Sounds great, right? The idea of universal coverage is growing in popularity. But, while all single payer is universal healthcare, not all universal healthcare is single payer. Universal health insurance generally means broad coverage for everyone, no matter income, medical condition(s), or ability to pay. Single payer is a form of universal coverage paid by one party, in this case, the Federal government.

It would be so easy to let just one source take care of everything. And in just four years! However, the universal coverage offered by most developed nations is not single payer, but a hybrid of public and private coverage. Canada, whose system is closest to what Senator Sanders proposes, uses a private insurance market for services not covered by the government. And the Canadian government does not cover nearly what the Sanders bill proposes. (Medicare for all includes vision and dental care, which Medicare does not cover.)

Add to that the lack of a score from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, which determines cost and loss of coverage impacts, lack of anything resembling a plan to pay for the coverage, and what would happen to our economy if the health insurance industry collapsed (which it would without a phase-out period longer than four years) and this bill is going nowhere.

It’s a good thought and an important introduction, but it also looks to be the next litmus test for what defines a “true” Democrat. I sure hope not. As the President’s approval numbers increase for the third week in a row, the last thing Democrats need is to shrink the tent. I hope we reach a  universal healthcare solution, and soon, but this bill is not the way.


This one makes me sad. This was a good faith, bipartisan effort to stabilize the 2018 markets. Details of the plan are sparse – negotiations of a bipartisan healthcare bill are bound to be sensitive – but the intent was very basic. Republicans would get more flexibility for the states to offer other options under the 1332 waiver. Democrats would get guaranteed funding for subsidies that help low income individuals pay for their coverage (the President keeps threatening to not release it).

Senator Alexander announced Tuesday that negotiations had stopped because they just couldn’t find the support to bring it to the Senate floor. I believe this is because of the Cassidy-Graham bill in part, so there is a chance it could be resurrected after September 30th, but I don’t know how likely that is. 

What can you do about the zombie?

The clock runs out at midnight on September 30th. As Jon Favreau said in his latest podcast, “It’s scary again and everyone’s gotta get to the phones.” Again. Sorry, guys.

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