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Editorial: After repeal’s rejection, go bipartisan on health care (Orlando Sentinel)

From the Orlando Sentinel Editorial Board:

“After U.S. Senate Republicans fell one vote short of passing what looked like their last chance to repeal and replace Obamacare, GOP leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky declared it was ‘time to move on’ to other issues. We hope McConnell, rather than abandon health care, will heed the sage advice of one of the three Republicans who helped sink the party’s chances of passing a ‘skinny repeal’ of the Affordable Care Act in the wee hours of Friday morning.

Arizona’s John McCain, who dramatically returned to the Senate this week after being diagnosed with brain cancer, urged his colleagues in a stirring floor speech to work across the aisle to craft a health-care bill in open hearings. ‘What have we to lose by trying to work together to find those solutions?’ he asked. ‘We’re not getting much done apart.’

McCain wasn’t the only one dispensing this wisdom. On Wednesday 10 governors, five Republicans and five Democrats, dispatched a letter to McConnell and Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer of New York, calling on them to work with each other and governors on health care. ‘True, lasting reforms can only be achieved in an open, bipartisan fashion,’ the governors wrote.

Sadly, the group did not include Florida Gov. Rick Scott. He hasn’t stopped pushing for the partisan approach of Republicans trampling any opposition from Democrats to repeal Obamacare. So how’s that working out for your party, governor?

Americans are fortunate that the Senate’s skinny repeal bill failed. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimated the ranks of the uninsured would have swelled by 16 million under the bill and insurance premiums would have risen another 20 percent a year between 2018 and 2026.

The stakes for Florida in the battle over health-care policy are huge. More than 1.7 million Floridians signed up for coverage in the health-insurance marketplace created by the Affordable Care Act during the most recent enrollment period. About 90 percent qualified for federal tax credits for their coverage, and 72 percent received subsidies, according to the Florida Policy Institute [emphasis added]. And though Scott spurned the opportunity under the law to expand coverage to 800,000 working poor Floridians, the percentage of uninsured state residents fell from 21.3 percent in 2010, the year the act passed, to 13.3 percent in 2015.

The loss of coverage for some or all of these Floridians wouldn’t just hurt them. It would shift the cost of their health care to everyone else, including families and businesses that pay for insurance, hospitals and governments.

But the Trump administration has accelerated these trends by actively undermining the law. It has threatened to discontinue cost-sharing payments to insurers to subsidize copays and deductibles for low-income enrollees. It has withdrawn assistance for many Americans in shopping for coverage on insurance exchanges. It has been backing away from enforcing the requirement that individuals obtain insurance, which puts markets at risk of slipping into a death spiral of too-few healthy enrollees.

Even so, there is certainly work to be done by Congress and the president to stabilize markets and rein in prices. The question for McConnell and other Senate Republicans, including Florida’s Marco Rubio, is whether they’ll turn this latest setback into an opportunity to draft a bipartisan plan that honors their promises to improve health coverage for millions of Americans.

Some senators, including Florida Democrat Bill Nelson and Maine Republican Susan Collins, say they’re already working together. Here’s hoping many more will join them.”

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