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Editorial: Latest effort to slash health insurance must fail

Pulling the rug out from under millions of Americans, as the latest Republican effort would do, is not the way to fix health care. There were hints last month of a bipartisan attempt to revamp health care. That is the only practical way forward, one that can win the support of the greatest number of Americans.

Republicans just can’t give up on the notion of repealing President Barack Obama’s signature Affordable Care Act – even if that means ending health insurance for millions and forcing states to pay an unsustainable amount of money to maintain less generous benefits.

This new effort by Republican Sens. Bill Cassidy of Louisiana and Lindsey O. Graham of South Carolina should suffer the same fate as the Senate’s previous attempts to repeal Obamacare. Republicans who were brave enough to walk away from the last failed attempt to repeal and replace – Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Susan Collins of Maine and John McCain of Arizona – need to resist heavy pressure to go along this time.

New York is one of the states that would be particularly punished, facing tens of billions more in costs than earlier health care legislation. That’s because the Cassidy-Graham bill would repeal federal subsidies for states that expanded Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act and granted subsidies aimed at helping people purchase health insurance.

The new legislation would offer federal block grants that get smaller each year. New York’s loss would build to $18.9 billion in 2026. The following year, the block grants would vanish altogether unless Congress acted to preserve them. Even then, New York’s shortfall would grow to $33.1 billion, according to research by the left-leaning Center for Budget and Policy Priorities.

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo sums up the problem: “If they cut us by $19 billion … we could not fund our current health care system. It’s just mathematically an impossibility.” Health care experts on both the left and right have criticized this new legislation. Republicans Chris Collins of Clarence and Tom Reed of Corning are waiting to see whether the bill passes the Senate. Right now, that seems unlikely – and it does not deserve support.

Budget rules require the Senate to act by Sept. 30 if it is to pass the legislation by a simple majority. After that, Republicans would need a 60-vote supermajority. There are only 52 Republican senators.

McCain had it right when he called on the Senate to focus more on bipartisan action than on “winning.” He offered a dramatic thumbs-down on the last attempt by Republicans, just a week after being diagnosed with brain cancer. He should do the same, again.

This is no way to legislate. The only way to a better plan is by working together. Republicans need to end their insistence that health care spending must be dramatically reduced. Democrats must end their insistence on covering as many people as possible no matter what the cost.

The focus should be on how to bring down the overall cost of health care. Doing that will allow more people to be covered.

Erie County faces an additional health care threat. Funding is set to expire Sept. 30 for the federal government’s program to pay more to hospitals, such as Erie County Medical Center, that treat a large number of Medicaid patients. If Congress refuses to maintain this safety net, hospitals and other organizations in the state could lose up to $1.1 billion in funding, according to Cuomo.

The last-ditch Republican effort to repeal Obamacare needs to fail. Only then can members of Congress start doing their jobs by sitting down together and crafting a bipartisan solution to the health care crisis.

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