U.S. Sen. John McCain
Originally published Thursday, June 15, 2017 at 02:47p.m.
PHOENIX (AP) — Sen. John McCain said Thursday the Senate's overhaul of the Affordable Care Act is stuck in gridlock, but he hopes some type of legislation gets a vote before Congress recesses for Independence Day.
The Arizona Republican told constituents listening to a Facebook Live town hall meeting from his Washington office that the version of the overhaul passed by the House is getting little consideration in the upper chamber.
"Sooner or later we're going to have to pass something and go to the House for some kind of reconciliation, which is how we pass laws," McCain said. "And I think this next week or two before we go out into the Fourth of July recess that we ought to do something. If we don't and we get into the August recess then I think we're going to have real problems."
McCain echoed Republican talking points that the current health care law is unsustainable, pointing to a doubling of premiums in Arizona this year. He also said dealing with the Medicaid expansion that was part of the law is a major problem.
He indicated that he favors giving states more latitude on Medicaid that will require federal money and more state-level funding.
McCain's comments came after senators worked behind closed doors for weeks to come up with an alternative to the bill that passed the House on May 4. McCain was asked if he would read and comprehend a Senate bill before he voted on it, and he promised he would.
President Donald Trump previously hailed the House passage with a Rose Garden ceremony but on Tuesday labeled it as "mean" in a meeting with senators.
An estimated 23 million Americans would lose coverage under the House-passed measure — about half from a rollback of the Medicaid expansion.
In Arizona, more than 400,000 people have gained insurance coverage under the expansion, and the 2013 state law implementing it requires them to be dropped if Congress cuts off extra federal funding. Another 140,000 people buy individual plans on the federal marketplace.
Backers of Medicaid expansion in Arizona have been pressuring McCain and Republican Sen. Jeff Flake to come up with a way to maintain the coverage or give the state more flexibility. An analysis done by the state's Medicaid agency shows it would cost about $500 million a year to maintain current coverage levels, something the Republican-led state Legislature is virtually certain to reject.
Flake said in a recent interview that he doesn't see a way for the closely divided Senate to pass a repeal unless there is a major event that prompts Democrats to come to the table.
"I do think we'll do something, I think we'll be forced to," Flake said. "Because it's likely that some insurers will pull out of the exchange and people will be left exposed."
McCain spent most of the town hall fielding screened questions about Russia's influence in the 2016 elections and problems in the Middle East. He said he trusts former FBI director Robert Mueller, who is conducting an investigation into the Russia matter.
Congressional probes also are underway.
McCain repeated his call for a select committee in Congress to take up the issue.
"When there's an attempt made to change the outcome of an election in a free and fair democracy, then if that succeeds then you've fundamentally destroyed that democracy," McCain said.