In a segment that aired last night, U.S. Sen. John Neely Kennedy told WWL-TV's David Hammer that he supports the Senate health care bill as currently written, or full repeal of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) without a replacement — basically greenlighting whatever legislation might appear before him today.
"If [the health care bill] didn't change ... I would vote for it, because it's better than the Affordable Care Act (ACA)," Kennedy said. "First chance I get to repeal Obamacare, I'm gonna do it."
Kennedy's remarks come amid a chaotic process and confusion about a potential vote that may take place in the Senate Tuesday. Kennedy is referring to the text of the Better Care Reconciliation Act (BCRA), the repeal-and-replace bill that was released by the Senate last month to widespread condemnation in Louisiana. That bill failed to garner sufficient support among senators to be brought to a vote in recent weeks.
But senators speaking to media in recent days have suggested they aren't sure what bill they might be voting on, whether it's an amended version of the BCRA or a different bill intended to fully repeal the Affordable Care Act, with a plan to replace it later.
A preview of today's prospective vote provided to the website Axios by Senate aides also requires a near-incomprehensible series of parliamentary maneuvers, which seem designed to engineer something that lawmakers can point to as a political victory in the slog toward their long-promised repeal of the ACA.
Sen. Bill Cassidy, Louisiana's other senator, has taken a high-profile role throughout the health care debate, most recently advocating for a proposal with Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) that emphasizes block grants (a set of money each state might allocate for health care), a repeal of the mandate for individuals to carry insurance and state autonomy.
“Obamacare has shown that coercing states and patients into a system that was not designed with their needs in mind does not work," Cassidy said in a July 21 statement. "Our proposal moves in the other direction by returning power to states and the people. It would empower states to craft solutions specific to the needs of their citizens."
It's not clear whether Cassidy's initiatives will be integrated into the Senate's vote today. For his part, Kennedy dismissed Cassidy's plan, saying it too closely resembles key elements of the ACA.
President Donald Trump also made a media appearance yesterday in a last-minute push to support health care reform. As he stood in front of a group of families he claimed had been harmed by the ACA, he condemned Democratic obstructionism, as well as Republican lawmakers' apparent failure to fulfill their pledge to repeal the health care law.
“Obamacare is death, that’s the one that’s death, and besides that it’s failing, so you won’t have it anyway,” the president said. Trump also made several factual errors about the law, saying it had been in effect for 17 years (it passed in 2010) and conflating pre-existing condition protections with problems with insurance network coverage.
In a December 2016 report, the Urban Institute found that 20 million people gained insurance as a result of ACA policies. Over 400,000 people in Louisiana are among them, as a result of the ACA's Medicaid expansion.
Nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) scores for recent bills predict that every recent piece of health care legislation released by lawmakers, including the American Health Care Act (AHCA) which passed the House May 4, would cause between 20-32 million people to become uninsured in the coming years.