Health and Science

Watch: Protesters disrupt Senate Finance Committee hearing on Obamacare repeal bill Graham-Cassidy

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The Senate Finance Committee's hearing on the controversial last-ditch bill to repeal and replace major parts of Obamacare was disrupted at its start by loud protests from audience members.

Committee leaders suspended the hearing until Capitol Police could clear the room of a group chanting "No cuts to Medicaid, save our liberty!"

Officers dragged out multiple people, some of whom were in wheelchairs, after they refused to leave voluntarily.

"If you want a hearing, you better shut up," snapped Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, chairman of of the Finance Committee.

Hatch resumed the hearing at 2:18 p.m.

But the chants continued, loudly, and were clearly heard in the committee room.

The legislation, known as Graham-Cassidy, faces long odds for passage by Saturday's deadline.

Republican leaders, who need 50 senators to vote from it, are faced with two senators, John McCain of Arizona and Kentucky's Rand Paul, who are on the record as being opposed to it.

Two other GOP senators, Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, also

A revised version of the bill was introduced Monday in an effort to woo those four senators by increasing the amount of money allocated to their respective states.

The bill is broadly opposed by a slew of groups of health care providers and patient advocates, as well as by two major lobbying groups for insurers.

Before the hearing, people in line outside the hearing heckled Sen. Lindsay Graham, R-SC, a lead sponsor of the repeal bill, yelling "shame, shame, shame."

Graham, who was the first witness at the hearing, told the committee members, "I'm hearing because Obamacare is a disaster in my state."

He said South Carolina had gone from having five insurance companies offering Obamacare health plans in 2014 to just one this coming year, "with a 31 percent increase [in premiums] announced Friday.

"If somebody doesn't fix Obamacare, the majority of counties in this country are going to be down to one" insurer, Graham said.

"It will ruin health care and bankrupt the American people," Graham said.

He defended the bill's change of the way the federal government funds Medicaid, moving to a system of block grants to individual states, which over time would decrease that federal funding compared to current projections.

Graham said that without that change, cost from Medicaid would be "unsustainable."

Before he spoke, Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., the committee's ranking member, noted that Graham's bill is widely unpopular with the general public.

 "This proposal is about as popular as prolonged root canal work," Wyden said.

An ABC News poll released Friday found that the public preferred Obamacare to Graham-Cassidy by a margin of 56 to 33 percent. A CBS News poll released Monday found that just 20 percent of respondents approved of the bill, compared to 52 percent who disapproved.

He also accused Republicans of trying to pass the bill in an effort to get some kind of health-care legislation passed, regardless of the damage it would do to Medicaid and to customers of individual health plan customers.

"Nobody has got to buy a lemon just because it's the last car on the lot," Wyden said. 

The Protect Our Care Campaign, a leading Obamacare defense group, earlier Monday blasted the bill.

"The bill, drafted in secret without the input of experts or Democrats, further eliminates protections for those with pre-existing conditions, imposes an age tax on seniors, decimates Medicaid, raises premiums, denies coverage to millions of Americans and sows utter chaos in the health care marketplace," the group said.

"If you or a loved one suffers from a pre-existing medical condition, this bill should scare you," said Brad Woodhouse, Campaign Director for Protect Our Care. "If you are a senior not yet eligible for Medicare, this bill should scare you. If you or a family member relies on Medicaid for your health care coverage, this bill should scare you. If you live in a state run by politicians who think you should be on your own for your health care coverage and that the insurance companies should be in charge of your care, this bill should scare the daylights out of you.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Republican from Kentucky, center, speaks as Senator Lindsey Graham, a Republican from South Carolina, center left, and Senator Bill Cassidy, a Republican from Louisiana, right, listen during a news conference after a Republican policy meeting luncheon at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Tuesday, Sept. 19, 2017.
Andrew Harrer | Bloomberg | Getty Images