My position on Graham-Cassidy

By Sen. Susan Collins

I want to explain to my fellow Mainers directly why I opposed the Graham-Cassidy health care proposals.

First, I want to assure you that I understand the flaws in the ACA (also known as “Obamacare”). In fact, one of the main reasons I opposed the ACA when it was passed by the Senate without a single Republican vote in 2009 was because there was nothing affordable about it. Today, too many Americans are burdened with skyrocketing premiums, unaffordable deductibles and limited choices, and small businesses across our country are struggling.

Obamacare is not working for many Americans, but in trying to solve the problem, it’s important that we not make matters worse. Unfortunately, the Graham-Cassidy proposal would have done just that.

Like Obamacare, Graham-Cassidy would have done nothing to address the budget-busting and unsustainable costs of health care. And it was a bad deal for Maine.

Here are just some of the problems:

Maine would lose $2 billion over the next 10 years and billions more after that. Numerous studies confirm this fact. The National Association of State Medicaid Directors said that Graham-Cassidy would be “the largest intergovernmental transfer of financial risk from the federal government to the states in our country’s history.”

Premiums would have increased. One of the authors of the bill acknowledged this to me directly. Individuals between the ages of 50 and 64 would have been particularly hard hit.

People with pre-existing conditions would not have been adequately protected. If you have a pre-existing condition like asthma, cancer, arthritis, diabetes or Alzheimer’s, use a pacemaker, have had a heart attack or stroke, or suffered from mental illness, you would pay even higher premiums or be subjected to annual or lifetime caps on your insurance in some states.

Millions more people would not have had insurance coverage. When the uninsured get sick or hurt, we all pay. Maine’s hospitals would suffer, and rural hospitals and nursing homes could have been forced to close.

Maine rural hospitals already are eliminating services, such as obstetrics, oncology, pediatrics and psychiatry. In addition to hurting medical services for Mainers, the proposal would have led to job losses at hospitals and health care providers, which are often the largest employers in the rural communities they serve.

One other major flaw with the Graham-Cassidy proposal is that it made one of the same mistakes that the Democrats made when they jammed through Obamacare – the bill did nothing to address the soaring cost of health care.

Here is what we need to do going forward:

Take action to address the cost of health care, including looking at the spiraling cost of prescription drugs, increasing transparency and giving people more control to manage their health care. Create invisible high-risk pools such as we had in Maine under PL 90 to provide reinsurance to help control premium costs. Act quickly to stabilize the insurance markets. Carefully review and repair the other flaws in Obamacare.

One final note – some have suggested that Anthem’s decision to withdraw from the individual market in Maine was because the Senate failed to pass Graham-Cassidy. That is just not accurate. Anthem strongly opposed Graham-Cassidy.

Health care affects each and every one of us and comprises one-sixth of our economy. We do need reform, but the Graham-Cassidy legislation was not the answer, as was demonstrated by the fact that just last weekend the sponsors issued a fourth, hastily drafted version of their bill, just days before the vote would have occurred.

Susan Collins is the senior U.S. senator from Maine.


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