Health Politics

The latest attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act has failed.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Tuesday announced he is pulling the Republican health care bill.

The Graham-Cassidy bill would have eliminated the mandate that people buy insurance or pay a fine. It also would have done away with subsidies that help people purchase insurance and it would have scrapped the national exchange, Healthcare.gov.

The bill would have dramatically changed the way Medicaid and exchanges are operated – giving a state like Kentucky money to create its own system — similar to the now defunct Kynect. That chunk of money also would have not kept up with actual medical costs over time, possibly costing the state billions.

Kentucky Leaders Weigh-In

This past weekend, the bill was revised to send more Medicaid dollars to Alaska, Arizona, Kentucky and Maine — the homes of senators who had voiced opposition to the measure.

At an event in Louisville Monday, Republican Sen. Rand Paul, a vocal opponent of the bill, called the last-minute changes “suspicious” and said the legislation still didn’t do enough to do away with Obamacare spending.

“I don’t know that we’ve fundamentally changed anything other than we’re re-shuffling who gets the money and that’s going to make some people happy and embitter other people,” Paul said Monday. He has criticized the measure’s block-granting Medicaid funds, saying that it would “immortalize” spending on the program.

Over the weekend, Graham-Cassidy co-sponsor Senator Lindsey Graham addressed Paul’s concerns in an interview with ABC News:

Third District Democratic Congressman John Yarmuth issued a statement Tuesday calling on Republicans to work with his party on fixing health care.

“After seven years of sabotage, it’s time for Republicans to finally come to the table and join Democrats in working together to improve health care,” Yarmuth said. “While I’m certainly glad this latest effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act and end coverage for tens of millions of Americans has collapsed, it’s even more clear to me how important it is that we continue to build on the progress we’ve made.”

Fourth District Rep. Thomas Massie couldn’t be reached for comment Tuesday, but he tweeted his criticism of the latest bill on Saturday:

‘Plenty of fight left’

During a news conference Tuesday, McConnell said the fight to change the health care system is not over.

“We are not going to be able to do it this week, but it still lies ahead of us and we haven’t given up on that,” McConnell said.

Graham on Tuesday defended McConnell against criticism that the Senate leader didn’t win over stray Republicans, like Paul.

“It’s about the process and the short period of time, and the leader could do nothing about that,” Graham said. “So to anyone out there that doesn’t think Mitch McConnell has not done all he could, you don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“It took 18 months to pass Obamacare. It’ll take a while to repeal it. There’s plenty of fight left in us,” Graham added.

On Sept. 30, special budget rules that would’ve protected the repeal bill from a Democratic filibuster — meaning it only needed a simple majority — are set to expire.

Lisa Gillespie is WFPL's Health and Innovation Reporter.