Following the release of Senate Republicans' draft of the House GOP-passed health care bill, Republican Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pennsylvania, said the focus remains on Medicaid expansion while noting there are indeed challenges that remain.
"It's going to be a challenge, but I have to strongly disagree with the characterization that we are somehow ending the Medicaid expansion. In fact, quite the contrary. The Senate bill will codify and make permanent the Medicaid expansion, and in fact we'll have the federal government pay the lion share of the cost," said Toomey.
He added, "Obamacare created a new category of eligibility: working-aged, able-bodied adults with no dependents for the first time became eligible for Medicaid if their income is below 138 percent of the poverty level. We're going to continue that eligibility. No one loses coverage."
Toomey, a member of the Senate Republican working group that wrote the bill, said that government spending on Medicaid will continue to grow every year and will "never" be cut.
"It will eventually be growing at a slightly slower rate, and we need that to make the program viable and to deal with these massive deficits and the mounting debt that we have," added Toomey.
under the bill beginning in 2021, with gradual reductions until 2024 in the amount of federal Obamacare funds that have financed the entitlement program's expansion. The Senate bill would also slash funding to Medicaid from what Republicans call "gimmicks that drive up federal costs." President Trump repeatedly promised during the 2016 presidential campaign that he would not cut Medicaid, Medicare or Social Security.
Sen. Bill Cassidy of Louisiana echoed Toomey's comments, saying people will move off the Medicaid expansion into the private health insurance market. "It isn't so much whether we are spending lots of money on Medicaid, it's whether or not people are covered," said Cassidy.
He added that Medicaid in its current form is not sustainable.
"If we can put Medicaid on a sustainable path where the state is receiving a certain amount of money and can budget for that and the state in turn gives it to managed care organizations, federal, state, managed care, the patient will have certainty as to their access."
But Cassidy, a physician, says he still has concerns about the bill in its current form.
"Right now I am undecided. There are things in this bill that adversely affect my state, that are peculiar to my state. A couple of the things I am concerned about, but if those can be addressed I will. And if they can't be addressed, I won't," said Cassidy.
When Cassidy was asked why there was such a rush to have a vote before the July Fourth recess, Cassidy said he would like more days to consider the bill.
"I think a few more days to consider would be helpful," Cassidy said.