(CNSNews.com) – The many critics of the latest Republican health care plan “are worried about the power leaving Washington and going to the states,” Sen. Lindsey Graham told Fox News’s Bret Baier on Thursday.
Liberal objections to the Graham-Cassidy bill center on coverage for pre-existing conditions, but Graham said no one can be denied coverage because of a pre-existing illness.
“If you are a Bernie believer, this is your worst nightmare because I take the money and power out of Washington and I let states decide this, but you do have to guarantee to issue pre-existing conditions coverage as a mandate under the bill,” Graham said. “But the real objection here by the Left is that we take money and power out of Washington and end single-payer health care as we know it.”
The Graham-Cassidy bill takes much of the taxpayer money spent on Obamacare and sends it to the states in roughly equal amounts. The states have the option of waiving Obamacare provisions they don’t like and keeping the ones they do want.
“There is a mandate in this bill that goes with the block grant that every state in the nation must cover people with pre-existing conditions so not one person is going to be denied coverage in any of the 50 states because they have a pre-existing condition,” Graham said. He said coverage for those pre-existing conditions must be “affordable and credible.”
“Who makes that determination?” Baier asked Graham.
The senator said the coverage for pre-existing conditions will be run through the CHIP program, a health program for low-income children that dates back to the Bill Clinton era.
Affordable and credible would be “flexible,” Graham said. “California may have a view of affordable and credible. South Carolina will have a different view, but nobody can be denied coverage because of a pre-existing illness; nobody can be kicked out of insurance, and the cost has to be affordable and credible within the lines of the CHIP criteria. And in 20 years, no one has ever complained about insurance coverage under CHIP. So that’s a lie by the left.”
Graham said the failing Obamacare law is the biggest threat to the American health care system, not state-controlled health care.
“I’m going to get the money and power out of Washington and I’m going to put it in the hands of people you go to church with. Under my plan, if you don’t like what you get, you can call the governor, you can call your state house member. Under Obamacare, who do you call?” he asked.
The Graham-Cassidy bill needs 50 votes to pass in the Senate, in which case Vice President Mike Pence would be the tie-breaker. And Graham said he’s optimistic.
“Everybody knows what federalism is. If you are a conservative Republican, you believe that the states should have as much power and authority as possible. The 10th Amendment is real.
“So this is a different concept,” Graham continued:
“I’ll be honest with you. I have never been more excited than I am right now. We need 50 votes to get this over the finish line. The president has been working like a tiger. The vice president– Mitch McConnell is going to give us a vote. We’re giving numbers to states, and I can tell you this: If you want money and power out of Washington, you want to end the March to single-payer health care, this is your last, best chance.
“This is the biggest change in health care in my lifetime. This is Federalism versus socialism. I think we’re going to get 50 Republican to vote for federalism. And I’ll make a prediction — a couple Democrats are going to come on board because their state does so well. I like New York, California, Massachusetts and Maryland but I don’t want to give them all the money.”
(Under Graham’s plan, states that did not expand Medicaid would get block grants roughly equal to the states that did expand it.)
As of Friday morning, Republican Sens. Susan Collins of Maine and Rand Paul of Kentucky were believed to be firm “no” votes. That puts John McCain of Arizona and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska in the hot seat. So far, neither has said “no,” nor has either said yes.
The Senate Finance Committee will hold a hearing on the Graham-Cassidy bill next week, and CNN will host a town hall with Republican Sens. Lindsey Graham and Bill Cassidy, who will debate health care with liberal Sens. Bernie Sanders and Amy Klobuchar on Monday, September 25 at 9 p.m. ET.
CNN’s Jake Tapper and Dana Bash will host the town hall.