Sen. Cassidy pushes his plan to replace federal health care reform law

NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - Even though President Donald Trump signed an executive order over the weekend allowing federal agencies to begin chipping away at the Affordable Care Act by granting exemptions and waivers, that did not stop Louisiana Sen. Bill Cassidy from moving forward with his proposal for replacing former President Barack Obama's signature law.

"There's not that many ways to get there, and as far as we know none better than this," said Cassidy.

"If we do not start putting specific legislation on the table that can be debated, refined, amended and enacted than we will fail the American people," said Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, who is co-sponsoring the legislation.

The legislation would allow states the option of remaining a part of the current ACA or go with the alternative Cassidy proposes, or have no involvement in a federal health coverage law.

Cassidy said his plan would pre-fund health savings accounts using tax credits. There would also be catastrophic and pharmacy benefits as part of the plan.

"At some point in this process we're going to need a bill that can get 60 votes.Just do now if you can say to a blue state senator who's really invested in supporting Obamacare, you can keep Obamacare by why force it upon us, we think that helps us get to 60," said Cassidy.

And how would the federal government funnel money to states that decide to opt out of the Affordable Care Act?

"The sum of money the state would receive with those eligible who had signed up for the exchanges and the sum of money they'd received if they'd expanded Medicaid and or if they had would be put together and assigned to the state," said Cassidy.

The Congressional Budget Office has not issued a score for the proposal.

"If you say you have X-amount of dollars and this many people to insure this is the payment that you receive, now we obviously tether it to what the Affordable Care Act has done, it worked for the Affordable Care Act, and so therefore we figure it will work for us. Long term we think we'd bend the cost curve down," Cassidy said.

Locally, health care advocates said beneficiaries of the current law are pensive over what could happen to their coverage.

"We've had people come in and say, can I get my birth control prescriptions for the next year, can I get my prescriptions written for the next year, can I get them as far out in advance because I'm worried that my healthcare coverage is going to go away," said Susan Todd, executive director of 504 HealthNet.

Todd is also concerned about what could happen if a future governor wants no part of a federal health insurance law.

"It does make me a little nervous thinking about [it], and I'll use Louisiana as an example, and under our current administration, Gov. John Bel Edwards has been very vocal about wanting to keep Medicaid expansion, wanting to keep certain things," said Todd.

She said more than a half million people in Louisiana have a lot to lose, and the insurance market could be impacted.

"Depending on what's in the place you look at risking insurance coverage to increasing premium prices. The instability of the insurance market is one of the contributors to increasing premium prices," said Todd.

Cassidy favors a simultaneous change, in terms of a repeal and replacement.

"At a minimum we do need to maintain coverage for people who are covered now and really expand coverage.  We really want to get our uninsured rate across the nation to be down as close to zero as possible," said Todd.

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